David Cameron has called on people to ‘feel proud to say this is a Christian country’, in his annual Easter message.

As the election campaign slowed to mark the Easter weekend, the Prime Minister hailed the work of the Church and condemned the persecution of Christians following the massacre in Kenya.

Mr Cameron’s praise for the Church comes after he criticised bishops for a controversial election letter calling for a ‘fresh moral vision of the kind of country we want to be’ which was widely seen as an attack on the Coalition’s welfare cuts.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Justin Welby, has condemned certain welfare reforms as part of a series of interventions by church leaders raising concerns about the shape of the economy.

In his video message the Prime Minister, who has defended the right of the Church to intervene in political debate, said Easter was ‘ time to reflect on the part that Christianity plays in our national life’.

‘The Church is not just a collection of beautiful old buildings; it is a living, active force doing great works across our country,’ he said.

‘When people are homeless, the Church is there with hot meals and shelter. When people are addicted or in debt; when people are suffering, or grieving – the Church is there.’

‘Across Britain, Christians don’t just talk about ‘loving thy neighbour’, they live it out … in faith schools, in prisons, in community groups.

‘And it’s for all these reasons that we should feel proud to say: this is a Christian country.

‘Yes, we are a nation that embraces, welcomes and accepts all faiths and none but we are still a Christian country.’

The PM, whose severely disabled son Ivan died in 2009, said that he knew ‘ from the most difficult times in my own life, that the kindness of the church can be a huge comfort’.

The slaughter at Garissa University College in Kenya, where al Qaida-affiliated al-Shabab gunmen specifically sought out and killed Christian students, has been condemned by the Pope and other leaders as they mark Easter.

‘We have a duty to speak out about the persecution of Christians around the world too,’ Mr Cameron said.

‘It is truly shocking to know that in 2015, there are still Christians being threatened, tortured – even killed – because of their faith…

‘In the coming months, we must continue to speak as one voice for freedom of belief.

‘So this Easter, we should keep in our thoughts all those Christians facing persecution abroad and give thanks for all those Christians who are making a real difference here at home.’

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said: ‘ While politicians in the UK are busy on the campaign trail, we must not forget the cruel and barbaric killings that took place in Kenya.

‘The thoughts of people here are very much with the families and friends of the murdered students in Garissa University.’

Labour leader Ed Miliband said ‘fear and uncertainty’ were issues for Christians both in the UK and abroad.

‘In the midst of the Easter celebrations our hearts go out to those who face difficult times both overseas and closer to home. My thoughts are particularly with Christians in Syria, Iraq and other countries where the church suffers terrible persecution,’ he wrote in a post on Facebook.

‘According to the International Society for Human Rights, Christians are the victims of 80% of all acts of religious discrimination in the world today. We must all do everything we can to speak out against this evil and work to alleviate the suffering of those who are persecuted simply for their creed.

‘But we don’t need to travel far to find families facing fear and uncertainty. Over two million children are now living in poverty in the UK. I have admiration for those church members and Christian charities that provide support and hope to those in need.

‘Over the Easter weekend millions of Christians will attend Easter services and events up and down the country. Through such gatherings, the Church shares the story of the resurrection, and spreads the good news of Easter.

‘In the months to come I hope that we will all stand up for justice, serve the most vulnerable and work to positively transform our communities together.’


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