Prayer and Policy: Obama Attends Event with the Dalai Lama

President Barack Obama and the Dalai Lama attended the National Prayer Breakfast today at the Washington Hilton. The annual event draws thousands of political and spiritual leaders from across the world. Because of the event’s sheer size, and because of the sensitive diplomatic triangle that encompasses the unique political interests of Tibet, China, and the United States, it is unclear if President Obama and the Dalai Lama were afforded the opportunity to share more than simple pleasantries.

Recent US presidents have all met with the Dalai Lama, though their meetings were largely symbolic gestures and did not foster significant policy changes that helped to alleviate the plight of the Tibetan people. The diplomatic triangle is admittedly fragile, and judicious steps must be taken when dealing with nuclear powers. However, basic human rights and religious freedom must never take a backseat in diplomatic discussions.  

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Freedom of religion is considered by many people and nations to be a fundamental human right. In a country with a state religion, freedom of religion is generally considered to mean that the government permits religious practices of other sects besides the state religion, and does not persecute believers in other faiths.