POLITICS

David Cameron Uses Easter Message To Praise Britain As A 'Christian Country'

05/04/2015 18:07 BST | Updated 05/04/2015 20:59 BST

Tony Blair famously didn't "do God" (at least not while in office). His heir, David Cameron, has no such inhibitions, using his Easter message to praise the Church as a "living active force doing great works" for the poor and homeless, while once again urging Britain to "feel proud to say this is a Christian country".

Cameron attended a church service with his wife Samantha in Chadlington before he helped feed a newborn lamb at Dean Lane Farm, near his home in Oxfordshire. Church of England bishops were criticised by a number of Conservatives for a pre-election letter calling for a "fresh moral vision of the kind of country we want to be" - seen by some as a thinly-veiled attack on welfare cuts.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Justin Welby, has previously 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". He said: "The Church is not just a collection of beautiful old buildings; it is a living, active force doing great works across our country. 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."

cameron lamb

'I shall call you Nick'

Cameron added: "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 PM also joined condemnation of the persecution of Christians across the globe as three days of official mourning began in Kenya for 148 victims of an Islamic extremist attack on a university. 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," 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."

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg stressed it was important not to forget the "cruel and barbaric killings" in Kenya while Labour leader Ed Miliband said "fear and uncertainty" were issues for Christians both in the UK and abroad.

Miliband, writing in a post on Facebook, said: "My thoughts are particularly with Christians in Syria, Iraq and other countries where the church suffers terrible persecution. 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."

As Christians celebrate around the world, I would like to wish you all a happy Easter. As with many of you, I look...

Posted by Ed Miliband on Sunday, 5 April 2015

Clegg, an atheist, said Easter was "a time of reflection and renewal" when everybody has a chance "to take stock of what is truly important to them and their families". The Liberal Democrat leader, whose children are brought up in the Catholic tradition of his Spanish wife, added on a lighter note on Twitter: "Whatever you're up to this weekend, I hope you have a very Happy Easter. And easy on those Easter eggs."

Ukip leader Nigel Farage wished people "a restful and enjoyable day".

Below are some pictures of David Cameron feeding a lamb that are in no way designed to show the Tory leader in a caring light ahead of the forthcoming election:

Cameron's Lamb