President Barack Obama is urging prayer for persecuted Christians throughout the world during the Christmas season.
"During this season of Advent, Christians in the United States and around the world are preparing to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ," Obama said in a statement released by the White House on Wednesday. "At this time, those of us fortunate enough to live in countries that honor the birthright of all people to practice their faith freely give thanks for that blessing.
"Michelle and I are also ever-mindful that many of our fellow Christians do not enjoy that right, and hold especially close to our hearts and minds those who have been driven from their ancient homelands by unspeakable violence and persecution."
Obama noted that some areas of the Middle East where church bells have rung for centuries on Christmas Day will be silent because of the "brutal atrocities committed against these communities by ISIL."
The rise of the Islamic State (ISIL or ISIS) has forced Christians and other minority religious groups to flee regions of Iraq and Syria or be killed.
"We join with people around the world in praying for God’s protection for persecuted Christians and those of other faiths, as well as for those brave men and women engaged in our military, diplomatic, and humanitarian efforts to alleviate their suffering and restore stability, security, and hope to their nations," Obama said.
"As the old Christmas carol reminds us: The Wrong shall fail, The Right prevail, With peace on earth, good-will to men."
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