President Obama sent a clear and vital message in favor of religious freedom and against sectarian persecution in his address to the Feb. 6 National Prayer Breakfast, according to Open Doors USA President and CEO Dr. David Curry.
Open Doors USA is one of the leading organizations providing assistance to Christians persecuted in repressive nations run by communist, Islamic and other totalitarian-style governments.
Obama's speech touched on a number of subjects, ranging from his own religious background to how he believes faith influences much of his domestic agenda. However, a major portion of his remarks centered around the quest to improve human rights around the world, with a specific emphasis on religious freedom, and it goes hand-in-hand with other basic freedoms of speech, expression and assembly.
Obama called for religious tolerance in volatile places like Nigeria and Burma, but he also called it an essential part of fostering stability in Egypt and Syria.
"No society can truly succeed unless it guarantees the rights of all the people, including religious minorities, whether they’re Ahmadiyya Muslims in Pakistan, or Baha’i in Iran or Coptic Christians in Egypt. And in Syria, it means ensuring a place for all people – Alawites and Sunni, Shia and Christian," Obama said.
Curry told Radio America Obama's statement was a long time in coming, but he hopes it will reverberate around the world.
"Having just returned from Egypt just a week or two ago, where I met with Christians who had their property, their churches damaged, over 300 churches and building damaged since August, I was very encouraged that the president seems to be responding to the call that Open Doors has made and finally step up and fill the gap in being a voice for the persecuted church around the world," Curry said.
"Christians happen to be, whether people understand it or not, the largest religious minority in the world. There has been a leadership gap, and we're just glad that the president seems to be recognizing it and addressing it," he said.
Curry admitted there a lot of policies he would like to see the Obama administration pursue to back up the words we heard at the National Prayer Breakfast. He said they have been sorely lacking but could have a huge impact on the world if stated repeatedly.
"We've been surprised thus far that the president has largely been silent on this issue, especially when you consider that the number of Christians who have been martyred for their faith doubled in the last 12 months. So there's been a lot of violence, yet there's been silence coming from our administration and, to be fair, from other Western governments as well. We were surprised at the silence. We're pleased that there seems to be some movement on this, even if it is a bit late," he said.
Curry also credited Obama for linking religious freedom to other basic freedoms the U.S. regularly champions around the world.
"It is fundamental to say I want to be able to think for myself. I want to read and study religious texts that I choose and then to make up your mind what you believe. I think Christianity always does great when it's in the free marketplace of ideas," said Curry, who says places around the world that repress free religious expression are usually this first squelch other basic human rights as well.