Sri Lanka's Ambassador to the US Devinda R. Subasinghe was among the Ambassadors and Muslim Leaders in the US who attended the Iftaar dinner hosted by US President George W. Bush, at the White House on Tuesday. The event is held annually to celebrate Ramadan- a month of fasting, prayer, worship and contemplation. "The invitees to the White House for this event are usually the diplomatic community and dignitaries from countries where there is a preponderance of Muslims. On this occasion, however, Sri Lanka was also included.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of State for Foreign Affairs of the United Arab Emirates Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed, was the special guest of honor at this event, which was also attended by Secretary of State Colin Powell, Secretary of Energy, Spence Abraham, National Security Adviser Dr. Condoleezza Rice and other senior administration officials.

Addressing the gathering, President Bush said "America is a land of many faiths" which honors, welcomes and values the Muslim faith. Noting that "Islam is a religion that brings hope and comfort to good people across America and around the world" he said "tonight we honor the contributions of Muslims and the tradition of Islam by hosting this Iftaar at the White House."

The President reminded his audience of the need to be "mindful of the struggles of the men and women around the world who long for the same peace and tolerance we enjoy here in America", adding that "brave American and coalition troops are laboring every day to defend our liberty and to spread freedom and peace, particularly to the people of Iraq and Afghanistan." Asserting that "terrorists who use religion to justify the taking of innocent life have no home in any faith", he pledged that the US "will continue to support the people of Iraq and Afghanistan as they build a more hopeful future" and "will not allow criminals or terrorists to stop the advance of freedom".

The President urged that "as we defend liberty and justice abroad, we must always honor those values here at home." He said, "America rejects all forms of ethnic and religious bigotry. We welcome the values of every responsible citizen, no matter the land of their birth" and "will always protect the most basic human freedom -- the freedom to worship God without fear."

Embassy of Sri Lanka
Washington DC

29 October 2003


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