September 20, 2016 at 3:30 pm EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Obama gives final U.N. General Assembly speech

President Obama used his final speech to the U.N. General Assembly to urge countries to do more to help refugees and migrants.

President Obama used his final speech to the U.N. General Assembly to urge countries to do more to help refugees and migrants.

UNITED NATIONS — President Obama on Tuesday urged the world to do more to help refugees and migrants.

“We have to open our hearts and do more to help refugees who are desperate for a home,” he said in his final speech to the U.N. General Assembly.

The U.N. Refugee Agency says that more than 65 million people have been forcibly displaced from their homes around the world. The International Organization for Migration notes 3,212 migrants have died or gone missing in the Mediterranean Sea since the beginning of the year.

National Security Advisor Susan Rice announced on Aug. 29 the administration had met its goal of allowing 10,000 Syrians to resettle in the U.S. during the 2016 fiscal year.

The White House has pledged to allow an additional 85,000 Syrians to resettle in the U.S. during the 2017 fiscal year. It remains unclear whether any of these slots have been specifically set aside to LGBT Syrians who have fled the so-called Islamic State and other Islamic militant groups.

Obama on Tuesday is scheduled to host a refugee summit on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly.

“We must reject any forms of fundamentalism or racism or a belief in ethnic superiority that makes our traditional identities irreconcilable with modernity,” he said during his speech.

Obama makes no mention of Trump in speech

Donald Trump in the wake of the June 12 massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla., reiterated his call to temporarily ban Muslims from entering the U.S. He also said he would suspend immigration “when there is a proven history of terrorism against the United States, Europe and our allies.”

Trump said in a speech he gave at an Ohio university last month that his administration would require potential immigrants to the U.S. to pass an “ideological test” that would include LGBT-specific questions. He also called for banning immigrants “from some of the most dangerous and most volatile regions of the world that have a history of exporting terrorism.”

Obama spoke to the U.N. General Assembly less than 24 hours after authorities arrested Ahmad Khan Rahami in connection with bombings in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood and in New Jersey over the weekend.

Hillary Clinton on Monday criticized Trump over his “irresponsible” and “reckless rhetoric” in response to the bombings and an attack at a Minnesota mall for which ISIS has claimed responsibility as “demagogic.” Obama did not specifically mention the Republican billionaire by name in his speech to the U.N. General Assembly.

“Our identities do not have to be defined by putting someone else down,” said Obama.

Outgoing U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday that refugees and migrants “face hatred” and Muslims “are being targeted by stereotyping and suspicion that have haunting echoes of the past.” He did not specifically reference Trump during his speech.

“I say to political leaders and candidates: Do not engage in the cynical and dangerous political math that says you add votes by dividing people and multiplying fear,” said Ban. “The world must stand up to lies and distortions of truth and reject all forms of discrimination.”

Botswana deports anti-LGBT U.S. pastor before speech

Both Ban and Obama made broad references to gay rights during their respective speeches.

“I have been a proud defender of the rights of all people, regardless of ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation,” said Ban.

This year’s U.N. General Assembly took place less than three months after the U.N. Human Rights Council approved a resolution that calls for the creation of the organization’s first-ever position to combat anti-LGBT discrimination around the world. Ban and Obama spoke hours after the Botswana government announced that it had deported Steven Anderson, an anti-LGBT pastor from Tempe, Ariz., from the country.

“In remote corners of the world citizens are demanding respect for the dignity of all people, no matter their gender or race or religion or disability or sexual orientation,” said Obama. “Those who deny others dignity are subject to public reproach.”

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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