- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 10, 2016

President Obama said Wednesday that he and first lady Michelle Obama are marking the start of Lent with their “fellow Christians” by praying for those who are persecuted around the world for their religious beliefs.

“We pray for all those who suffer, including those Christians who are subjected to unspeakable violence and persecution for their faith,” Mr. Obama said in a statement. “Lent is a season of reflection, repentance and renewal, a time to rededicate ourselves to God and one another.”

The president has been criticized for ignoring the plight of Christians who are being killed in the Middle East by Islamist extremist groups such as the Islamic State. When Mr. Obama offered prayers at Christmas for persecuted Christians, Evangelical leader the Rev. Franklin Graham said he was “glad his administration is beginning to acknowledge the plight of Christians being persecuted and killed around the world by Islam.”

Responding to Republican presidential candidates who have called for barring Muslim immigrants from Syria and Iraq, Mr. Obama has said there must not be a religious litmus test imposed for entry to the U.S.

The administration also has come under fire from conservatives for allegedly discriminating against Christian refugees. The State Department said late last year that less than 3 percent of the Syrian refugees admitted to the U.S. were Christian and 96 percent were Muslim, the result of a referral system that Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas said “unintentionally discriminates” against Christians.

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