Obama Says Faith Should Not Divide

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CBNNews.com  - WASHINGTON - Hours before officially establishing a new faith-based initiatives office Thursday, President Barack Obama reminded thousands of attendees at the National Prayer Breakfast about the importance of the Golden Rule.

"There is one law that binds all great religions together," Obama told the thousands of attendees, including several world leaders and hundreds of members of Congress. "Jesus told us to "love thy neighbor as thyself."

Obama cited similar references found in the Torah, the Koran, and in other major world religions.

"It is, of course, the Golden Rule - the call to love one another;" the President said. "To understand one another; to treat with dignity and respect those with whom we share a brief moment on this Earth."

Obama said the ancient rule requires a living, breathing, active faith.

"It requires us not only to believe, but to do - to give something of ourselves for the benefit of others and the betterment of our world," he said.

"Instead of driving us apart, our varied beliefs can bring us together to feed the hungry and comfort the afflicted," Obama reasoned, "to make peace where there is strife and rebuild what has broken; to lift up those who have fallen on hard times."

"This is not only our call as people of faith, but our duty as citizens of America," he reminded.

New Faith-Based White House Office Created

Later Thursday, Obama formalized the new White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships though an executive order. CBNNews.com first reported on this plan Wednesday.

The signed order says the new office will work with organizations "no matter their religious or political beliefs."  Obama also stressed at the prayer breakfast that it would not favor one religion over another and would maintain the separation of church and state.

"This work is important because whether it's a secular group advising families facing foreclosure, or faith-based groups providing job-training to those who need work, few are closer to what's happening on our streets and in our neighborhoods than these organizations," the President said.

"People trust them," he said. "Communities rely on them. And we will help them."

Keynote Address by Tony Blair

Earlier former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who was the breakfast's keynote speaker, addressed those in attendance.

While saluting Obama, he reminded the audience that President's hard work has now begun and he needs the support and the help of everyone.

"We don't need cheerleaders, but partners," Blair said. "Not spectators, but supporters."

In his prepared remarks, Blair said faith itself will not be so easily defined in order to exude others or do evil.

"For billions of people, faith motivates, galvanizes, compells and inspires," he explained. "Not to exclude, but to embrace. Not to provoke conflict, but to try to do good."

"This is faith in action and you can see it in countless local communities," Blair said. "Where those from churches, mosques, synagogues and temples tend the sick, care for the afflicted, work long hours in bad conditions to bring hope to the despairing and salvation to the lost."

The former British prime minister also recalled an early spiritual moment in his life. His father, an atheist, was seriously ill. As Blair and a teacher knelt to pray, Blair told the teacher his father didn't believe in God. "'That doesn't matter,' my teacher replied, God believes in him,' " Blair said.

The breakfast was held at the Washington Hilton hotel, and also featured the Christian band Casting Crowns, Bible readings, and prayers by members of the House and Senate.

The National Prayer Breakfast is held annually in Washington, D.C. on the first Thursday in February. The event began in 1953 and was founded by Frank Carlson, a former congressman, governor, and senator from Kansas.

Sources: The Associated Press, CBN News, Wikipedia

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