Obama: Terrorists' goal 'is to weaken our faith'
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President Obama on Wednesday said the goal of terrorists is to “weaken our faith” as he addressed faith leaders at an Easter prayer breakfast.

Speaking to clergy members in the State Dining Room, the president said the gathering took on added meaning in the wake of terrorist attacks in Brussels and Pakistan.


“These attacks can foment fear and division. They can tempt us to cast out the stranger, strike out against those who don’t look like us or pray exactly as we do,” Obama said. 

“And they can lead us to turn our backs on those most in need of help and refuge,” he added. “That is the intent of the terrorists, is to weaken our faith. To weaken our best impulses, our better angels.”

The attacks have spurred a rancorous debate on the presidential campaign trail, which Obama has repeatedly derided. 

GOP presidential candidate Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzGermany calls on Congress not to sanction Nord Stream 2 pipeline: report Fauci says lies, threats are 'noise' Biden administration resists tougher Russia sanctions in Congress MORE called for special policing of Muslim neighborhoods following a string of bombs that exploded last week in the Belgian capital. 

Republican front-runner Donald TrumpDonald TrumpFormer defense secretary Esper sues Pentagon in memoir dispute Biden celebrates start of Hanukkah Fauci says lies, threats are 'noise' MORE renewed calls for waterboarding terror suspects and for temporarily blocking Muslims from entering the United States.

Obama said that clergy have an important role to play in instilling the lessons of faith in their followers. 

“If Easter means anything, it means you don’t have to be afraid,” the president said. “We drown out darkness with light and we heal hatred with love. And we hold onto hope.” 

The president thanked the clergy for their collaboration on initiatives such as refugee resettlement, poverty reduction and criminal justice reform. 

Earlier in the breakfast, he joked that he’ll be working alongside clergy on important issues once he leaves office in January — but only after he gets some rest.

“I want to remind you all that, after a good chunk of sleep when I get out of here, I am going to be right there out with you doing some work,” Obama said, drawing laughter from the crowd.  

“So, you’re not rid of me yet, even after we’re done with the presidency,” he continued. “But I am going to take three, four months where I just sleep. And I hope y’all don’t mind that.” 

Obama joked that he had an exhausting Easter weekend, capped off with Monday’s Easter Egg Roll at the White House.

“Imagine thousands and thousands of children, hopped up on sugar, running around your backyard,” he said. “Surrounded by mascots and Muppets and Shaquille O’Neil. For 12 hours. That was my Easter Weekend.”