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Cameron hails 'great' Church works

Published 05/04/2015

Prime Minister David Cameron and his wife Samantha arrive at St Nicholas Church in Chadlington, Oxfordshire, where he attended an Easter Sunday service. Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire.
Prime Minister David Cameron and his wife Samantha arrive at St Nicholas Church in Chadlington, Oxfordshire, where he attended an Easter Sunday service. Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire.
Prime Minister David Cameron said Easter was 'time to reflect on the part that Christianity plays' in the UK

David Cameron has hailed the Church as a "living active force doing great works" for the poor and homeless in an Easter message which urged Britain to "feel proud to say this is a Christian country".

As the pace of campaigning slowed to mark the occasion, the Prime Minister 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.

Mr 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.

"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...

"I n 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.

Mr 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.

"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."

Mr Clegg, a n 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 o n 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".

It came as the Archbishop of York urged Christians to vote and criticised as "absurd" politicians who said the church should stay out of politics.

He said: "When they pillory bishops and others for daring to invade the territory hitherto regarded as their private preserve, they are suggesting there are some areas of God's world that are out of bounds to Him. That is as absurd as it sounds."

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