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Bush praises faith-based groups in post-tsunami relief

WASHINGTON (BP)–President Bush praised the work religious organizations have done in the post-tsunami relief effort, telling a Feb. 3 National Prayer Breakfast audience that millions of victims have been helped by their assistance.

“[T]he American response is so much more than what our government agencies did,” Bush said, speaking the morning after his State of the Union address. “Look at the list of organizations bringing relief to the people from Indonesia to Sri Lanka. They’re full of religious names: Samaritan’s Purse, American Jewish World Service, Baptist World Aid, the Catholic Medical Mission Board. They do a superb job delivering relief across the borders and continents and cultures.

“Today, millions of people across this earth get the help they need only because our faith-based institutions live the commandment to ‘love thy neighbor as thyself.’ Often, that means remembering the people forgotten or overlooked in a busy world: those in Africa suffering from HIV/AIDS, young girls caught up in the global sex trade, victims of religious persecution.”

The annual event included prayers and Scripture readings from several political leaders, such as Rep. Tom Osborne, R.-Neb., and Labor Secretary Elaine Chao. Tony Hall, a former Democratic representative from Ohio, delivered the keynote speech.

Bush said that faith-based groups who have assisted victims in southern Asia have followed God’s commands.

“People of faith have no corner on compassion,” he said. “But people of faith need compassion if they are to be true to their most cherished beliefs. For prayer means more than presenting God with our plans and desires. Prayer also means opening ourselves to God’s priorities, especially by hearing the cry of the poor and the less fortunate.”

Through fellowship and prayer, Bush said, “we acknowledge that all power is temporary and must ultimately answer to His purposes.” Abraham Lincoln, Bush said, exhibited the humility that faith brings.

“In November 1864, after being reelected to his second term, Lincoln declared he would be the most shallow and self-conceited blockhead on earth if he ever thought he could do his job without the wisdom which comes from God and not from men,” Bush said. “Throughout a terrible Civil War, he issued many exhortations to prayer, calling upon the American people to humble themselves before their Maker and to serve all those in need.

“Our faith-based institutions display that same spirit of prayer and service in their work every day. Lincoln’s call is still heard throughout the land.”

Events such as the National Prayer Breakfast serve a great purpose, Bush asserted.

“I thank you for the fine tradition you continue here today, and hope that as a nation, we will never be too proud to commend our cares to Providence and trust in the goodness of His plans,” he said.

Hall, who now serves as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Agencies for Food and Agriculture, read 1 Timothy 2:1-2, encouraging prayer for Bush and political leaders on every level.

“We don’t pray enough for leaders,” Hall said. “I know that today we’re going to pray for the president and all the people that are here, but what are we going to do tomorrow?

“We need to pray for our president every day [and for] our vice president,” Hall said, adding that believers likewise should pray for Bush’s cabinet, the Supreme Court, Congress, state representatives and local leaders.

In 1995, Hall won the Distinguished Service Award from the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (then the Christian Life Commission).

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