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Obama, in India, speaks on jihad; prelates urge him to defend religious freedom

November 08, 2010

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The leading prelate in the eastern Indian state of Orissa has urged President Barack Obama to denounce the persecution of Christians during his November 6-8 visit to India. Some 50,000 Christians were left homeless during an anti-Christian rampage in 2008.

“Christians in India hope that President Obama will address religious intolerance and attacks led by Hindu fundamentalists against Christians in Orissa and other states, as well as against other religious minorities,” said Archbishop Raphael Cheenath of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar. “If fanaticism continues, thousands of faithful Christians will continue to suffer. Every Indian citizen should have the freedom to choose and practice their own faith. The radical Hindu groups should not be free to impose their ideology and cause social unrest.”

On November 7, President Obama visited a Catholic high school in Mumbai, where he celebrated Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights. Only 5% of the students at the school are Catholic; 60% are Hindu, while 35% are Muslim.

“Christians in India expect President Obama to support human rights, pluralism, dialogue, and tolerance,” said Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai. “The visit to a Catholic school also represents a clear recognition, before the whole country, of the valuable work of education at the highest level and the excellent service to the nation carried out by Christian schools.”

“What is your take or opinion about jihad?” a student asked President Obama at a town hall meeting at the school.

“Well, the phrase jihad has a lot of meanings within Islam and is subject to a lot of different interpretations,” the president responded. “I think all of us recognize that this great religion in the hands of a few extremists has been distorted to justify violence towards innocent people that is never justified. And so, I think, one of the challenges that we face is, how do we isolate those who have these distorted notions of religious war.”


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Show 3 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: impossible - Nov. 08, 2010 10:10 PM ET USA

    The above headline is APesque. Obama did not speak on Jihad, but as usual when asked a question he "spoke around the issue." One cannot love what one doesn't know. Equally true is that a nation cannot fight what it will not identify by name. I've always crilnged at the expression, "War on terror." Terror is not the enemy. Terrorists are the enemy. More specifically, Islamist Jihadist Terrorists are the enemy." We should insist that politicians get a passing grade in Reality 101.

  • Posted by: annemarie - Nov. 08, 2010 10:01 PM ET USA

    A student asked Obama, "What is your take or opinion of Jihad?" Obama did NOT answer the question. He tap danced around the issue. He passed on a golden opportunity to denounce jihad. Is anyone really surprised!?

  • Posted by: DrJazz - Nov. 08, 2010 4:14 PM ET USA

    It's worth a second read: "President Obama visited a Catholic high school in Mumbai, where he celebrated Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights." Stuff like this is exactly what I expect from our sitting Prez. I'll be very surprised if he denounces any persecution of Christians anywhere.