In the peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians, he added, "we have made clear that lasting peace will require freedom of worship and access to holy sites for all faiths."
"More broadly I've made the case that no society can truly succeed unless it guarantees the rights of all of its peoples, including religious minorities, whether they are Ahmadia Muslims in Pakistan or Baha'is in Iran or Coptic Christians in Egypt."
Obama also offered prayers for Kenneth Bae, a U.S. missionary being held in North Korea, and Saeed Abedini, an Idaho pastor who is in custody in Iran. Bae was arrested in November 2012 in North Korea while leading a tour group and sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for unspecified anti-government activity. Supporters say he did nothing wrong. Abedini, who is of Iranian origin, has been held since September 2012 and is serving an eight-year sentence after being convicted of trying to establish a network of Christian churches in private homes.
Obama and other attendees gave a standing ovation to the president's fellow Hawaiian, pro surfer Bethany Hamilton, after she described how God transformed the loss of her arm from a shark attack into something "totally amazing" by giving her the ability to inspire others.
Reps. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, and Janice Hahn, D-Calif., welcomed the packed ballroom with some bipartisan humor. Hahn said prayer helped her forgive Gohmert for criticizing food-stamp recipients for buying king crab legs. "For all you know, it was imitation crab," she deadpanned.
Gohmert said he was asked whether he really wanted to serve in a Congress with all its backstabbing meanness, but he was prepared. "I was the deacon of a Baptist church."