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Bush Calls for Greater Religious Tolerance in US

President Bush has said Americans of all faiths should pray for the nation as it recovers from the attacks of September 11 and continues its fight against terrorism. Mr. Bush spoke at a national prayer breakfast Thursday morning, where he called for greater religious tolerance.

President Bush said there will be hardships ahead in the fight against terrorism, and faith will not make the path easy. But he said it will give the nation strength in "this time of testing."

"Tragedy has brought forth the courage and the generosity of our people. None of us would ever wish on anyone what happened on that day," he said. "Yet, as with each life, sorrows we would not choose can bring wisdom and strength gained in no other way."

The president said millions of Americans have been led to prayer since September 11 - prayers for comfort in a time of grief, for understanding in a time of anger, and for protection in a time of uncertainty.

Mr. Bush spoke at Washington's annual national prayer breakfast a private event traditionally attended by religious leaders, lawmakers, and foreign heads of state. The president said the terrorist attacks have brought the nation together, not behind any one religion, but behind a respect for faith that teaches both humility and tolerance.

"Every religion is welcomed in our country; all are practiced here. Many of our good citizens profess no religion at all. Our country has never had an official faith. Yet, we have all been witnesses these past 21 weeks to the power of faith to see us through the hurt and loss that has come to our country," Mr. Bush said.

The president said faith shows the reality of good and the reality of evil. Mr. Bush said it is "always and everywhere" wrong to target and kill the innocent, to be cruel and hateful or to enslave and oppress. As individuals, the president said, Americans know suffering is temporary and hope is eternal. As a nation, he said, Americans know the ruthless will not inherit the Earth.

"Respect for the dignity of others can be found outside of religion, just as intolerance is sometimes found within it. Yet, for millions of Americans, the practice of tolerance is a command of faith. When our country was attacked, Americans did not respond with bigotry. People from other countries and cultures have been treated with respect. And this is one victory in the war against terror," Mr. Bush said.

President Bush asked Congress to approve government funding for faith-based community groups as part of his broader call for greater volunteerism in the fight against terrorism and protecting homeland security.