- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Criticized at times for ignoring the plight of persecuted Christians, President Obama said Wednesday that he is praying for Christians and those of other faiths who are attacked because of their religion by groups such as the Islamic State.

“In some areas of the Middle East where church bells have rung for centuries on Christmas Day, this year they will be silent; this silence bears tragic witness to the brutal atrocities committed against these communities by ISIL,” Mr. Obama said, using an acronym for the extremist group.

The president said as Christians in the U.S. and around the world prepare to celebrate Christmas, “many of our fellow Christians do not enjoy that right” to free expression of religion.

The president said he and first lady Michelle Obama “hold especially close to our hearts and minds those who have been driven from their ancient homelands by unspeakable violence and persecution.”

Some have criticized Mr. Obama for opposing legislation which would fast-track Christian refugees, despite nearly a third of Syria’s Christians having fled persecution by al Qaeda and the Islamic State. The president has said the law doesn’t allow religious favoritism in accepting or rejecting refugees, and has criticized Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump for proposing a temporary ban on Muslim refugees.

In his statement, the president said he and Mrs. Obama “join with people around the world in praying for God’s protection for persecuted Christians and those of other faiths, as well as for those brave men and women engaged in our military, diplomatic, and humanitarian efforts to alleviate their suffering and restore stability, security, and hope to their nations.”

“As the old Christmas carol reminds us: The Wrong shall fail, The Right prevail, With peace on earth, goodwill to men,” he said.

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