Speaking at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington Thursday, President Barack Obama decried groups like ISIS that commit violence in the name of religion and warned that such “distortions” are not unique to any one group of people.
“We see faith driving us to do right,” he said. “But we also see faith being twisted and distorted, being used as a wedge – or worse, sometimes used as a weapon.”
Calling the Islamic terror group known as ISIS or ISIL “a brutal, vicious death cult,” Obama noted that its extremists oppress minorities and rape women in the name of religion.
And, he said, any faith can be “twisted” by humans to justify acts of injustice and violence.
“There is a tendency in us, a sinful tendency, that can pervert and distort our faith,” he said.
“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,” he added. “In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ.”
The president urged all people to push back “against those who would distort our religion for their nihilistic ends.”
“No God condones terror,” he said. “No grievance justifies the taking of innocent lives or the oppression of those who are weaker or fewer in number.”
The president also notably addressed the Dalai Lama, whose presence at the event has prompted criticism from the Chinese government.
"I want to offer a special welcome to a good friend, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who is a powerful example of what it means to practice compassion and who inspires us to speak up for the freedom and the dignity of all human beings," Obama said.