Dallas memorial service: Obama quotes Scripture heavily, urges America to hold on to hope

Obama spoke at the memorial for the fallen officers but also expressed condolences to the families of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile – two black Americans who were killed by police officers last week.Reuters

As US President Barack Obama addressed on Tuesday an interfaith memorial service for the five Dallas police officers slain in the line of duty last week, he quoted the Bible extensively and urged American citizens to hold on to hope.

Expressing condolences to the families of the officers as well as Alton Sterling and Philando Castile – two black Americans who were killed by police officers last week – Obama said it was vital the US remained united in the face of difficulty.

"I see what's possible when we recognise that we are one American family, all deserving of equal treatment, all deserving of equal respect, all children of God. That's the America that I know," he said.

"Dallas, I'm here to say we must reject such despair. I'm here to insist that we are not as divided as we seem. And I know that because I know America. I know how far we've come against impossible odds."

A committed Christian – though his faith is contented heavily by some opponents – Obama quoted four Bible verses:

1 John 3:18

"And so I'm reminded of a passage in John's Gospel [First John]: Let us love not with words or speech, but with actions and in truth. If we're to sustain the unity we need to get through these difficult times, if we are to honor these five outstanding officers who we've lost, then we will need to act on the truths that we know. And that's not easy. It makes us uncomfortable. But we're going to have to be honest with each other and ourselves."

Ezekiel 36:26

"I've been to too many of these things. I've seen too many families go through this. But then I am reminded of what the Lord tells Ezekiel: I will give you a new heart, the Lord says, and put a new spirit in you. I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.

"That's what we must pray for, each of us: a new heart. Not a heart of stone, but a heart open to the fears and hopes and challenges of our fellow citizens. That's what we've seen in Dallas these past few days. That's what we must sustain."

Romans 5:3-4

"Scripture tells us that in our sufferings there is glory, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. Sometimes the truths of these words are hard to see. Right now, those words test us. Because the people of Dallas, people across the country, are suffering."

"But as Americans, we can decide that people like this killer will ultimately fail. They will not drive us apart. We can decide to come together and make our country reflect the good inside us, the hopes and simple dreams we share. 'We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.'

"For all of us, life presents challenges and suffering – accidents, illnesses, the loss of loved ones. There are times when we are overwhelmed by sudden calamity, natural or man-made. All of us, we make mistakes. And at times we are lost. And as we get older, we learn we don't always have control of things – not even a President does. But we do have control over how we respond to the world. We do have control over how we treat one another."

Psalm 30:5

"And that's what I take away from the lives of these outstanding men. The pain we feel may not soon pass, but my faith tells me that they did not die in vain. I believe our sorrow can make us a better country. I believe our righteous anger can be transformed into more justice and more peace. Weeping may endure for a night, but I'm convinced joy comes in the morning."

Obama ended his address with a call for all Americans to devote themselves to building a better future.

"We cannot match the sacrifices made by Officers Zamarripa and Ahrens, Krol, Smith, and Thompson, but surely we can try to match their sense of service. We cannot match their courage, but we can strive to match their devotion," he said.

"May God bless their memory. May God bless this country that we love."