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President Obama Claims He Is a Devout Christian, Denies Affiliation With Muslim Faith

( [email protected] ) Jan 29, 2015 03:40 PM EST

President Obama
President Obama addresses the crowd in New Delhi, India, on January 27, 2015. Photo: AP

U.S. President Barack Obama recently defended his adherence to the Christian faith, but emphasized that there would be nothing wrong if he were not a follower of Christ.

"In our lives, Michelle [Obama] and I have been strengthened by our Christian faith. Still, as you may know, my faith has at times been questioned - by people who don't know me - or they've said that I adhere to a different religion, as if that were somehow a bad thing," Obama said during a speech in New Delhi, India on Tuesday, according to ABC News.

"Every person has the right to practice their faith how they choose, or to practice no faith at all, and to do so free from persecution and fear."

According to a poll conducted by Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion and Public Life, only 49% of Americans believe that President Obama is a Christian despite his assertions, while another 17% called him a "Muslim."

Others, however, such as megachurch pastor Joel Osteen, have vouched for the President's Christian faith. In November, the pastor told Wolf Blitzer of CNN that he often heard Obama express a belief in Jesus, redemption and salvation.

"I just believe in my heart that he's a Christian," Osteen said. "He says he is."

During his speech on Tuesday, Obama praised the variety of faiths practiced in both India and the United States, asserting, ''Our nations are strongest when we see that we are all God's children -- all equal in His eyes and worthy of His love. Across our two great countries we have Hindus and Muslims, Christians and Sikhs, and Jews and Buddhists and Jains and so many faiths.''

Obama also called on Indian Prime Minister Narenda Modi to pursue women's rights and religious tolerance, predicting that India will succeed "as long as it's not splintered along religious lines."

The President's comments were made in the wake of rising violence against Christians in India. According to UCANews.com, the Christian Persecution Report for 2014 showed that as many as 7,000 Christians suffered some form of persecution, and there were five deaths resulting from violence including an 11-year-old child. Additionally, over the past several weeks, multiple churches have been torched and vandalized.

Persecution watchdog group International Christian Concern, which has highlighted a number of these attacks on Christians, said that it remains to be seen whether India will "now take heed" of Obama's words.