President Obama spoke at his final Easter Prayer Breakfast on March 30, using the occasion to emphasize the need to respond to acts of hatred with love.
Obama hosted the breakfast for 140 Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox leaders at the White House, in which he spoke to denominational heads and prominent pastors from around the country, according to Religion News Service. While he acknowledged the personal connection he has to the tradition, which he began in 2010, he also brought up the issues that he and other leaders are facing in the context of world events such as terrorist attacks in Paris, Brussels and Pakistan.
"[These] attacks can foment fear and division," Obama said, according to a statement from the White House. "They can tempt us to cast out the stranger, strike out against those who don’t look like us, or pray exactly as we do. And they can lead us to turn our backs on those who are most in need of help and refuge."
Obama emphasized that despite the devastating nature of these attacks, it was especially crucial not to lose sight of the values that people of all faiths hold dear around the world.
“That’s the intent of the terrorists, is to weaken our faith and weaken our best impulses, our better angels,” the president said. “[If] Easter means anything, it’s that we don’t have to be afraid. We drown out darkness with light, and we heal hatred with love, and we hold on to hope,” he added.
Obama also attended his last National Prayer Breakfast this year, which is chaired each February by members of Congress. This event and the Easter breakfast are opportunities for Obama to speak on his personal faith and how it has impacted him.
“And our faith changes us. I know it’s changed me,” Obama said. “It renews in us a sense of possibility. It allows us to believe that although we are all sinners, and that at times we will falter, there’s always the possibility of redemption. Every once in a while, we might get something right, we might do some good.”