David Cameron has said that the work of the church should make people feel proud to say that Britain is a Christian country.
The Prime Minister said the church is a “living, active force” which does good work with the homeless, in schools and in prisons.
However his comments, made in a video marking Easter weekend, follow criticism of his definition of the ‘heart’ of Easter last week.
An ‘active force
Mr Cameron said: “The Church is not just a collection of beautiful old buildings; it is a living, active force doing great works across our country”.
He continued: “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”.
Mr Cameron argued that it’s “for all these reasons that we should feel proud to say: this is a Christian country”.
The Prime Minister went on to speak about the persecution of Christians across the world.
He said: “It is truly shocking to know that in 2015, there are still Christians being threatened, tortured – even killed – because of their faith”.
Freedom of belief
Mr Cameron stressed that: “In the coming months, we must continue to speak as one voice for freedom of belief.”
Over the Easter weekend, Labour leader Ed Miliband and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg also addressed the persecution of Christians.
Mr Miliband wrote that, in the UK, we “must do everything we can” to criticise oppression.
While Nick Clegg said that people “must not forget the cruel and barbaric killings that took place in Kenya”.
Last week the Prime Minister’s comments on Easter were heavily criticised in The Spectator and The Guardian.
In an article for Premier Christianity magazine, Mr Cameron said that the heart of Easter is “about remembering the importance of change, responsibility, and doing the right thing for the good of our children”.
The Spectator’s Isabel Hardman challenged his definition, writing: “generally the heart of the Christian message is considered to be a man called the son of God dying in agony on a cross and then rising from the dead, saying he was taking a punishment that men deserved”.
The Guardian newspaper called it an “insult to Christianity and to all non-Christians as well”.
It said the crucifixion is “absolutely not a story of virtue rewarded and vice punished, but one of virtue scourged and jeered through the streets, abandoned by its friends and tortured in public to death”.