Obama offers prayers for Christians persecuted by ISIS

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President Obama lamented the persecution of Christians worldwide, specifically by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, in a statement the day before Christmas Eve.

"In some areas of the Middle East where church bells have rung for centuries on Christmas Day, this year they will be silent," Obama said.

"This silence bears tragic witness to the brutal atrocities committed against these communities by ISIL," he added, using an alternate name for the terror group.

The president has often faced criticism from Republican rivals, including presidential hopefuls, for not doing enough to help Christians being persecuted in the Middle East by radical Muslim terrorists.

"Christians who are being targeted, for genocide, for persecution, Christians who are being beheaded or crucified, we should be providing safe haven to them," Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said in November during an interview on Fox News after the Paris terror attacks.

"But President Obama refuses to do that," he added, calling the president "unwilling" to specifically call out radical Islamic terror.

In the statement, Obama noted that during the build-up to Christmas, "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," he said.

He closed with a prayer for those of all faiths facing persecution and evoked a line from the popular Christmas carol "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day."

"The Wrong shall fail, the Right prevail. With peace on earth, good-will to men."