London: Prime Minister Theresa May urged the British people on Sunday “to take pride in our Christian heritage” in an end-of-year message that is being scrutinised for its political significance.
May, the daughter of a vicar, said: “As we celebrate the birth of Christ, let us celebrate all those selfless acts – and countless others – that epitomise the values we share: Christian values of love, service and compassion that are lived out every day in our country by people of all faiths and none.”
The Prime Minister, who grew up as an active Christian in Oxfordshire, once told an interviewer about her faith: “It is part of me…. I think it’s right that we don’t sort of flaunt these things here in British politics but… it obviously helps to frame my thinking.”
She accepts that Britain is now a multi-religious society that is now so secular that Christmas cards with an image of Madonna and child sold in shops, for example, number perhaps one in 100.
But May’s message will appeal to traditional Tories.
She said: “Let us reaffirm our determination to stand up for the freedom of people of all religions to speak about and practice their beliefs in peace and safety.
“Let us remember those around the world today who have been denied those freedoms – from Christians in some parts of the Middle East to the sickening persecution of the Rohingya Muslims.”
In contrast, the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who is pitching for the Pakistani vote at the next election, avoided all mention of religion and highlighted Britain’s pride in being a “compassionate nation”.
Members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association (AMYA) announced they will be visiting care homes and hospices as well as providing a free taxi service to the elderly on Christmas Day.
Reports pointed out that the Ahmadiyya, who number about 35,000 in the UK, are widely persecuted in Pakistan.
According to the UK’s most senior Coptic bishop, Archbishop Angelos of London, Egypt’s Christian minorities are preparing for Christmas with “resilience” after a year of unprecedented violence