UK should be proud of Christian roots, says David Cameron in Easter message
David Cameron has hailed the Church as an "active force doing great works" for the poor and homeless in an Easter message urging 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 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 Tories 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 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."
The slaughter at Garissa University College in Kenya, where Islamist extremists sought out and killed Christian students, was condemned by politicians and religious leaders.
At Canterbury Cathedral, the Archbishop of Canterbury called those who died martyrs. Archbishop Welby said Christians must resist without violence the persecution they suffer and support persecuted communities, with love and goodness and generosity.
And he said: "To witness is to be a martyr. I am told by the Coptic Bishop in England that the Coptic Christians murdered in Libya last month died proclaiming that Jesus Christ is Lord. They are martyrs, a word that means both one that dies for their faith and one that witnesses to faith.
"There have been so many martyrs in the last year. On Maundy Thursday, three days ago, around 150 Kenyans were killed because of being Christian. They are witnesses, unwilling, unjustly, wickedly, and they are martyrs."
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, an atheist, 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.
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.
Dr John Sentamu 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."