After a long long while, U.S. President Barack Obama finally found the perfect occasion—Christmas—to turn his thoughts to the Christian world and the persecution of Christians in particular.
In a statement released by the White House on Wednesday, Obama said he is praying for Christians being persecuted by the Islamic State (ISIS) this Christmas.
"We join with people around the world in praying for God's protection for persecuted Christians and those of other faiths, as well as for those brave men and women engaged in our military, diplomatic, and humanitarian efforts to alleviate their suffering and restore stability, security, and hope to their nations," the President said, as reported by CNN.
"In some areas of the Middle East where church bells have rung for centuries on Christmas Day, this year they will be silent; this silence bears tragic witness to the brutal atrocities committed against these communities by ISIL," Obama said, using his preferred acronym for ISIS.
The President noted that while Christians in the U.S. are free to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, Christians in some parts of the world do not enjoy this freedom.
"Michelle and I are also ever-mindful that many of our fellow Christians do not enjoy that right, and hold especially close to our hearts and minds those who have been driven from their ancient homelands by unspeakable violence and persecution," Obama said.
Obama issued the statement following criticism by Republican presidential candidates that he has been ignoring the plight of Christians persecuted in the Middle East.
Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump has been bashing the Obama administration for allegedly welcoming only Muslim refugees from Syria, not Christians. "If you happen to be a Christian in Syria, it's almost impossible to come into this country. If you're a Muslim, you can get in," Trump told CNN in a recent interview.
Wisconsin mayor calls Obama a Muslim
Meanwhile, a mayor in Wisconsin is facing a fierce backlash after he called Obama a Muslim who has "destroyed the fabric of democracy."
Mayor Bruce Hagen of Superior, Wisconsin made his scathing comment on Facebook and in a local television interview, WND reported.
"[Michelle Obama] and her Muslim partner have destroyed the fabric of democracy that was so very hard fought for," Hagen wrote in a response to a friend's comment.
Asked why he called Obama a Muslim, the mayor replied that many Americans do not believe the president is a Christian.
Interviewed on Fox 21 on Monday night, Hagen said he has a "huge respect for the office of the president, but no respect for the current administration."
Five city councilors demanded that he apologise or resign, but Hagen has not made any move to retract his comments.
Obama, whose father was Muslim, has on at least two occasions mentioned or suggested that he is Muslim. In a 2008 interview when he was still a senator running for president, Obama cited his "Muslim faith," only to be corrected in mid-sentence by his interviewer, ABC's George Stephanopoulos, according to WND.