Washington DC, Feb 6: US president Barack Obama Thursday praised the Dalai Lama as “a powerful example of what it means to practice compassion,” and also talked of professions of faith used both as an instrument of great good, but also twisted and misused in the name of evil.
Mr. Obama was addressing the National Prayer Breakfast at the Washington Hilton Thursday morning. The Dalai Lama was also present. As we speak, Mr. Obama said, around the world, we see faith inspiring people to lift up one another — to feed the hungry and care for the poor, and comfort the afflicted and make peace where there is strife, the President said adding but we also see faith being twisted and distorted, used as a wedge — or, worse, sometimes used as a weapon. From a school in Pakistan to the streets of Paris, we have seen violence and terror perpetrated by those who profess to stand up for faith, their faith, professed to stand up for Islam, but, in fact, are betraying it. We see ISIL, a brutal, vicious death cult that, in the name of religion, carries out unspeakable acts of barbarism — terrorizing religious minorities like the Yezidis, subjecting women to rape as a weapon of war, and claiming the mantle of religious authority for such actions.
Mr. Obama drew attention to the sectarian war in Syria, the murder of Muslims and Christians in Nigeria, religious war in the Central African Republic, a rising tide of anti-Semitism and hate crimes in Europe, so often perpetrated in the name of religion.
So how do we, as people of faith, reconcile these realities — the profound good, the strength, the tenacity, the compassion and love that can flow from all of our faiths, operating alongside those who seek to hijack religious for their own murderous ends? Mr. Obama asked
Humanity, Mr. Obama pointed out, has been grappling with these questions throughout human history. And lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ. In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ.
The president said: “Michelle and I returned from India — an incredible, beautiful country, full of magnificent diversity — but a place where, in past years, religious faiths of all types have, on occasion, been targeted by other peoples of faith, simply due to their heritage and their beliefs — acts of intolerance that would have shocked Gandhiji, the person who helped to liberate that nation.”
The same day when the US President was speaking about compassion and human dignity, eruption of violence in Bangladesh compelled the US to issue a statement to express grave concern over the ongoing unrest and violence in Bangladesh.
In a message on the fresh spate of violence in Bangladesh, US Department of State Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf Thursday said; “We deplore the unconscionable attacks including bus burnings, throwing incendiary devices, and train derailments that have killed and wounded innocent victims. We condemn in the strongest terms the use of violence for political objectives. There is simply no justification for such actions in a democratic Bangladesh. All Bangladeshis must have the right and the ability to express their views peacefully. We call on the government to provide the necessary space for peaceful political activity, and for all parties to instruct their members to refrain from violence.