One day after visiting a mosque to extend an olive branch to the Muslim community, President Obama urged Americans to practice religious tolerance as a matter of faith.


“Just yesterday, some of you may be aware I visited a mosque in Baltimore to let our Muslim-American brothers and sisters know that they too are Americans and are welcome here,” he said at the National Prayer Breakfast on Thursday morning.

“I pray ... that our differences ultimately are bridged. That the God that is in each of us comes together and we don’t divide,” he added. 

Obama’s comments come amid a tumultuous Republican primary race in which the question of how to preempt radical Islamic terrorism has been a prominent topic.

Front-runner Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpSessions accepts 'Fox News Sunday' invitation to debate, Tuberville declines Priest among those police cleared from St. John's Church patio for Trump visit Trump criticizes CNN on split-screen audio of Rose Garden address, protesters clashing with police MORE has suggested a temporary ban on Muslim immigration to the U.S. in the wake of several terrorist attacks.

Obama, however, said Americans must reject a “spirit of fear” that ostracizes other cultures and threatens to undermine the tradition of rights upon which the nation was founded.

“It is a primal emotion, fear, one that we all experience,” he said. “And it can be contagious, spreading through societies and through nations. And if we let it consume us, the consequences of that fear can be worse than any outward threat. 

“For me, and I know for so many of you, faith is the great cure of fear,” he continued. “Jesus is a good cure for fear. God gives believers the power, the love, the sound mind required to conquer any fear.”

“Just as we call on other countries to respect the rights of religious minorities, we, too, respect the right of every American to practice their faith freely,” he said. “This is what each of us is called on to do, to seek our common humanity of each other.”

Republican presidential candidate Ben CarsonBenjamin (Ben) Solomon CarsonCOVID-19 makes Trump's work with black Americans that much harder Sunday shows preview: Congress spars over next round of coronavirus relief; GOP seeks offensive after news of Flynn 'unmasking' On The Money: Small business loan program out of money | Lawmakers at impasse over new funds | Senate adjourns for week with no deal | Trump to leave decision on reopening economies with governors MORE, who has questioned whether Islam is compatible with American values, was also expected at the breakfast.

Carson vaulted into the national political scene at the Prayer Breakfast in 2013, when he gave a keynote speech drawing attention to the national debt and the failures of ObamaCare.