President Obama condemned those who seek to use religion as a rationale for carrying out violence around the world, declaring Thursday that "no god condones terror."
"We are summoned to push back against those who would distort our religion for their nihilistic ends," Obama said during remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast. He singled out the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria, calling the militants a "death cult," as well as those responsible for last month's terror attacks in Paris and deadly assault on a school in Pakistan.
Among those attending the annual gathering of politicians, dignitaries and faith leaders was the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism. As with the Dalai Lama's past visits to Washington, his attendance at Thursday's breakfast drew criticism from Beijing, which sees him as an anti-Chinese separatist because of his quest for greater Tibetan autonomy.
Obama and the Dalai Lama did not have a formal meeting planned. Still, the president made note of the Dalai Lama's presence at the breakfast, calling him a "powerful example of what it means to practice compassion."
In a show of White House support for the Dalai Lama, he was seated at a table with Valerie Jarrett, one of Obama's closest advisers.
The Dalai Lama fled to exile in India after a failed 1959 Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule, and Bejing regards U.S. dealings with him as interference in China's internal affairs.
"Tibet-related issues concern China's core interest and national feelings," said Hong Lei, spokesman for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, at a daily briefing on Tuesday. "We oppose to foreign countries' interfering with China's internal affairs and meeting with the Dalai Lama. We hope the U.S. leader can look at the bigger picture of the relations and properly handle this issue."