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President Obama Discusses Religious Freedom During Overseas Trip E-mail
Written by Don Byrd   
Monday, 19 November 2012

President Obama is the first U.S. President to visit Burma, and during a speech today noting the country's transition to democracy, he spoke on the importance of religious freedom. Here's a snippet:

This country, like my own country, is blessed with diversity.  Not everybody looks the same.  Not everybody comes from the same region.  Not everybody worships in the same way.  In your cities and towns, there are pagodas and temples, and mosques and churches standing side by side.  Well over a hundred ethnic groups have been a part of your story.  Yet within these borders, we’ve seen some of the world’s longest running insurgencies, which have cost countless lives, and torn families and communities apart, and stood in the way of development.
...
Every nation struggles to define citizenship.  America has had great debates about these issues, and those debates continue to this day, because we’re a nation of immigrants -- people coming from every different part of the world.  But what we’ve learned in the United States is that there are certain principles that are universal, apply to everybody no matter what you look like, no matter where you come from, no matter what religion you practice.  The right of people to live without the threat that their families may be harmed or their homes may be burned simply because of who they are or where they come from. 

Only the people of this country ultimately can define your union, can define what it means to be a citizen of this country.  But I have confidence that as you do that you can draw on this diversity as a strength and not a weakness.  Your country will be stronger because of many different cultures, but you have to seize that opportunity.  You have to recognize that strength. 

I say this because my own country and my own life have taught me the power of diversity.  The United States of America is a nation of Christians and Jews, and Muslims and Buddhists, and Hindus and non-believers.  Our story is shaped by every language; it’s enriched by every culture.  We have people from every corners of the world.  We’ve tasted the bitterness of civil war and segregation, but our history shows us that hatred in the human heart can recede; that the lines between races and tribes fade away.  And what’s left is a simple truth: e pluribus unum -- that’s what we say in America.  Out of many, we are one nation and we are one people.  And that truth has, time and again, made our union stronger.  It has made our country stronger.  It’s part of what has made America great.

His message of freedom through reconciliation is a powerful statement on the beauty of diversity, once the forces of violence and oppression are required to step down. 

 
 
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