David Cameron’s Easter speech: “Christians are now the most persecuted religion around the world”

David CameronDavid Cameron rarely wins plaudits when he mentions his own Christian faith. Secularists think it would be far better if he kept it to himself and many Christians complain that likening your faith to the patchy reception of Magic FM in the Chilterns basically means it is hardly a faith at all. Despite this he continues to talk about it and his annual Number 10 Easter receptions – which he inaugurated – give him the opportunity to say a little more. This year’s was held last night. Bearing in mind the events of yesterday morning, it was somewhat ironic that the evening’s formalities began with a lone chorister singing ‘Ave Maria’.

The full transcript of David Cameron’s speech that followed is not yet available, but in the meantime, here are some snippets:

“The Bible tells us to bear one another’s burdens,” Cameron began. “After the day I’ve had, I’m definitely looking for volunteers.”

He went on to raise three main points:

  • He said that he wanted to ensure that Christians were supported and that he would do all he could to remove any obstacles that prevented Christian churches and groups from flourishing.
  • He said that the government would speak out against persecution of Christians and he also spoke of the draft modern slavery bill.
  • He suggested that the churches and the government had in common a tendency to be deadened by bureaucracy and called on churches to evangelise with energy and passion.

The Prime Minister thanked the churches for their social work in society, including the growth of food banks to help the poor, “Jesus invented the Big Society 2,000 years ago; I just want to see more of it,” he said. “If there are things that are stopping you from doing more, think of me as a giant Dyno-Rod” to clear the drains.

During the speech Cameron referred to Jesus Christ as “our saviour,” saying his “moments of greatest peace” come “perhaps every other Thursday morning” when he attends the sung Eucharist at St. Mary Abbots, Kensington, which is linked to the school his children attend. “I find a little bit of peace and hopefully a bit of guidance.”

10 Downing Street Easter Reception 2014He also paid tribute to the pastoral work of churches, referring to the 2009 death of his oldest child, Ivan, who would have been 12 on April 8. In particular he took time to mention his local vicar in Oxfordshire. Mark Abrey, the vicar of St. Nicholas, Chadlington was “the person who looked after me” during this time . “I can’t think of anyone who was more loving or thoughtful or kind.”

Cameron also urged churches to speak up for persecuted Christians around the world.  He made the commitment that the Government will fight the persecution of Christians abroad: “It is the case that Christians are now the most persecuted religion around the world. We should stand up against persecution of Christians and other faith groups wherever and whenever we can.”

Quite what such a commitment entails is unclear, but the fact that the widespread persecution of Christians has been acknowledged by a prime minister so explicitly is a major step forward and echoes previous comments made by the Minister for Faith and Communities, Baroness Warsi.

David Cameron does deserve credit for allowing Christianity and religious faith to be discussed by government ministers in an open way that had not been the case under the previous government and his Easter receptions are a welcome part of that. It would be harsh to say that he is paying little more than lip service to the churches in this country when he thanks them for their work and the valuable contribution Christians make to our society by engaging with their communities and working with people most others would choose to avoid. There may still be a level of distrust towards the Government from many Christians, but just for now can we please give David Cameron some recognition for his willingness to speak up for the Christian faith and those who follow it?

This article includes information from Robert Hutton, Bloomberg and Revd Ruth Gee, President of the Methodist Conference

UPDATE 10 April pm – The full transcript of the speech has now been published on the Government website and can be read below:

Look, a huge – a warm welcome to everybody. The Bible tells us, actually, to bear one another’s burden and you will fulfil the law of Christ; after the day I’ve had, I’m definitely looking for a few volunteers for that. But I – just a few things I wanted to say tonight.

First, how proud I am to hold this reception. Quite rightly, here in Number 10 Downing Street we hold receptions for Eid, for Diwali, we had a Vaisakhi reception and some of Britain’s most prominent members of the Sikh community here just this week. But I’m very proud that we hold a reception for prominent Christians right across our country here before Easter, the most important of the Christian festivals.

And it’s wonderful to have such a diverse range of people from so many different organisations here to celebrate that with us. I’m proud to hold a reception for Christians here in Downing Street and proud to be a Christian myself and to have my children at a church school, which – I often get my moment of greatest peace – not every week, I’m ashamed to say, but perhaps every other week I pop in to the Thursday morning sung Eucharist beautiful service in St Mary Abbots, and I find a little bit of peace and hopefully a little bit of guidance.

I’m trying to introduce something new with my children which is a little quiz at breakfast time, sometimes about current affairs, sometimes about something they’ve learned at school, maybe even something they’ve discovered in the Gospel. But this morning I tried something different; I said, “What do we know about Prime Minister’s Questions?” And my 8-year-old son said, “Oh that’s when you shout at each other and call each other idiots and muppets.” And it turned out there had been a feature on Newsround, but he closed this conversation by saying, “I watched the feature on Newsround; I was very proud, daddy,” which I’m not sure was the right answer.

So it’s lovely to have here tonight the vicar from St Mary Abbots school, Gillean Craig, and also the vicar who looks after me spiritually in the constituency, Mark Abrey in Chadlington, who, when I often – anyone asks me about the pastoral care that many vicars carry out across the country, I remember 5 years ago when we had to mourn the loss and bury my son Ivan, I can’t think of anyone who was more loving or thoughtful or kind than Mark. And of course, Ivan would have been 12 yesterday, which has had me pause to think about that.

I also wanted to say I’m proud this year to have completed a small pilgrimage, which is I have finally made it to the place where our Saviour was both crucified and born. And it’s a very special moment the first time you go to the Church of the Holy Nativity; it’s a remarkable, extraordinary place, and I think something that will stay with me.

Now, look, there were 3 things that I wanted to say tonight about what I hope we can do more of in our country when it comes to Christianity. And as Eric Pickles said this week, we should be proud of the fact that we are a Christian country, and I am proud of the fact we’re a Christian country and we shouldn’t be ashamed to say so. But I think the 3 things I want to focus on – and I hope we can all work on this – the first is to expand the role of faith and faith organisations in our country. This has been a consistent theme of this government; I’m sure there’s more we could do to help make it easier for faith organisations.

I think we’ve made some good steps forward; free schools, allowing church schools to expand – I think these are important steps. I look around the room and I see faith organisations some of whom I’ve visited over the years and some of who are expanding relatively rapidly. Whether its providing services for children at risk of exclusion, whether it’s teaching prisoners to read, whether it’s dealing with breakdown, whether it’s provision of food banks, there are some extraordinary organisations run by faith groups and Christians in our country and I want to see the possibilities for that to expand.

People sometimes say, you know, “You talk about the Big Society; don’t you realise this is what the Church has been doing for decades?” And I say yes, absolutely. Jesus invented the Big Society 2000 years ago, I just want to see more of it and encourage as much of it as possible. And that is something I think we should all want to see: a bigger role for faith-based organisations in our society. And if there are blockages, if there are things that are stopping you doing more, think of me if you like as a sort of giant Dyno-Rod in Whitehall: I want to make it easier, I want to unblock the things that help you do what you do. So please let’s do that.

Second thing is I hope we can do more to raise the profile of the persecution of Christians around the world. It is the case today that our religion is now the most persecuted religion around the world. I think Britain can play a leading role in this. We have met our obligations in terms of the aid we give to countries around the world. We’re seen as a country which is engaged internationally, and I know that William Hague shares my view about this as does Sayeeda Warsi who leads on this issue in the Foreign Office. We should stand up against persecution of Christians and other religious groups wherever and whenever we can, and should be unashamed in doing so.

This third thing I wanted to say, which I suppose is a little bit more controversial, but I was reflecting on this meeting tonight and what to share with you and I have a thought – which is not a new thought, but I think it is a true thought –which is when I think of the challenges which our churches face in our country and when I think about the challenges political institutions face in our countries – in our country, I see a lot of similarities. We both sometimes can get wrapped up in bureaucracy; we both sometimes can talk endlessly about policies and programmes and plans without explaining what that really means for people’s lives. We can sometimes get obsessed by statistics and figures and how to measure things.

Whereas actually, what we both need more of is evangelism. More belief that we can get out there and actually change people’s lives and make a difference and improve both the spiritual, physical and moral state of our country, and we should be unashamed and clear about wanting to do that. And I’m sure there are people here of all political persuasions and no political persuasions, and I’m certainly not asking you to agree with everything the government does, but I hope you can see – hopefully more than moments, but real moments of evangelism, enthusiasm and wanting to make our world a better place.

Of course, I see my number 1 role and responsibility as sorting out the economy and turning the economy round, and I bore on and on about it and talk about my long-term economic plan. But aside from that there are some really big things that this government is doing which are about that improving state of the world and evangelism. The fact that at a time of great economic difficulty we’ve met the 0.7% target for our aid, our GNP on aid, whereas other countries have either dropped that target or failed to meet that target, I think should be a deep source of national pride. Every few seconds a child is being vaccinated against a disease because of the decision we’ve made in this country to keep our promises and to keep our promises to the poorest people in the world. That is about changing lives, and we should be proud of that.

This year we are going to pass through Parliament a bill to outlaw modern slavery. This is something, I think, that people of all faiths can get behind and get behind with real enthusiasm: that we’re going to bring together all the legislation in this area, that we’re going to toughen the penalties, we’re going to drive out the scourge that is still so present in our world and we’re going to do it on a cross-party basis but with real meaning and feeling.

Of course, many of the things that we do are controversial, not least the changes that we’re making in welfare, but I hope that even when people will disagree and challenge with this idea or that idea, there is a genuine attempt to try to lift people up, rather than count people out. That is what it’s all about, and I welcome the debate that there is with church leaders and faith communities about some of these issues because in the end, actually, I think we all believe in many of the same things. The dignity that comes through work, the support people want to give their families, not writing anyone off, always giving people a second chance – these are really important to all of us.

So let’s have that debate, but I hope that I can enthuse political institutions, my party, my government with a sense of evangelism about some of the things we’re trying to change in our country and in our world. And when I look at churches I see that the – you’re trying to do exactly the same thing, to fire up your congregations with a sense that actually, if we pull together, we can change the world, we can make it a better place. That to me is what a lot of the – what the Christian message is about, and that’s why it gives me such pleasure and is a huge privilege to have you all here tonight. Thank you.

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Categories: David Cameron, Easter, Persecution, Uncategorized

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26 replies

  1. It’s hypocrisy, it’s just lip service to win the Christian vote – he isn’t practicing what he is preaching. The poor are oppressed in the UK because of Government legislation. Many disabled people and others feel pummeled by Government work-rules. Things are worse for many UK Christians because of mixed-messages about speaking out about faith in the workplace and because of the stifling political climate which has created a more insular, selfish climate which infects the church too. The ‘Big Society’ has nothing to do with Christ’s kingdom. Cameron said that Britain needed to be fixed – and his ‘diagnosis’ differs from Christ’s who said that we are sick and need to be ‘healed’.

    Every time a prime minister claims to be a Christian it jinxes it for the rest of us because everybody then associates Christians with the status quo and with the establishment. Blair and Bush caused immense damage to the way people view Christians and now Cameron is doing the same.

    The only good thing he said was that he could be likened to a huge drainage brush covered in sh…

  2. The above report of the PMs speech last night is good and fair. but his last point involved being much more ‘ evangelistic’ and the need of evangelism. it was his most ‘controversial’ comment – but
    he asked us to speak up, speak out and share our faith with energy and passion.

    • And did he add ‘unless you work in the NHS’? Gerald, you are a Christian leader – it’s plainly obvious that Cameron is misleading the country. We have prayer campaigns that pray for politicians and Government. Recently one prominent Christian campaign this year urged everyone to write to their MP and thank them for the work they do. How is this in any way anything like what Christ would have wanted for us?

      • With this and your previous comment, you appeared to be suggesting that Christians would create a wholesome, caring society if they held the reins of power – yet then become rather prescriptive (and perhaps proscriptive) about what ‘being Christian’ means (see: http://bornagainagnostoc.blogspot.co.uk/2014/04/exceptionalism.html for my own thinking on this phenomenon). But then this is ever the malady of the religiously inclined – demanding freedom of speech, freedom of belief etc. but with the caveat of saying who is and who isn’t a ‘real’ believer and (ironically) how they should behave and what they should be saying… Cameron, Blair and Bush are Christians – whether they meet with your approval is of little consequence! Alas the ruse ‘I’m a true a Christian, these are false Christians, is one of the reasons why religion is such a poor template for governance; sooner or later the ‘true Christians’ (or whatever religion, for such is its nature) are going to burn the ‘false’ Christians at the stake (metaphorically or (alas, as history attests) in reality).

        As for welfare benefits etc. it would be well to remember to have a look at English Christianity’s recent past. E.g. “…the Clapham Sect were influenced by the notion of the “free market economics and the ‘improvement’ of humanity were closely bound up with the initial Evangelical movement (Hilton 1988: 100-105). Hilton notes that it was a commonly held belief in the 1800s that the labouring classes should be kept poor as otherwise they would cease to be ‘industrious’ (ibid. 100). These early Evangelicals did not favour Poor Law provision… nor its reform. Neither did they approve of organised charity, which they saw as a legal barrier between the ‘loving’ nature of their gift and the recipient.

        Evangelicals such as Thomas Chalmers (1780-1847) and John Bird Sumner (1780-1862) were heavily influenced by Adam Smith and much of their thinking on philanthropy appears to be a synthesis of Smith economics and Evangelical doctrine. Sumner was convinced that the problems of life, particularly those that cause economic hardship are a trial provided by God for the improvement of an individual’s character, but moreover to provide an opportunity for those with resources to exercise benevolence. Dixon suggests that in the late 18th century, following the revolution in France (thus in part inspired by fear, rather than charity) that there was concern as to the welfare of the working-class. It was noted by Evangelicals that churches tended to be places where the rich worshiped and therefore providing for the spiritual needs of the working class would ensure that they would lead godly lives and know their place and see the benevolence of their betters. Chalmers saw in the idea of the market a means of imparting the need for moral conduct. He believed that choice was a fundamental concept of market economics and that people should be rewarded for ‘good’ or ‘moral’ choices and suffer hardship for foolish or profligate choices (Dixon 2009).”

        Refs: Hilton, B. (1988) The Age of Atonement: The influence of Evangelicalism on social and economic thought 1785-1865 Oxford: Oxford University Press
        Dixon, W. (2009) Thomas Chalmers: the market, moral conduct and social order Department of Economics, London Metropolitan University

        The above is from my doctoral thesis (alas a part that is now languishing in an appendix!). But tell us this notion that ‘Christians’ have one belief about welfare or reform or charity is just bosh. Wherever two or three are gathered in Christ’s name, you can be sure an argument will ensue sooner or later about this or that piece of Scripture or doctrine. Personally I think Cameron is being particularly brave (in the political sense of the word…). He is proclaiming his faith, yet not retreating into the vanity of victimhood or ‘we know best’ rhetoric that is the vogue at present with some of our religious friends.

        There are social reformers among Christians and there are reactionary conservatives who would be happy to see the welfare state dismantled: yet they are still all Christians. There is no one size fits all Christianity… If there was, we’d have avoided a lot of bloodshed over the years.

  3. Would be interested to know who was on the guest list? Was it mainly evangelicals from the Tory heartlands? I know Christians Against Poverty were there but were Church Action on Poverty invited? Was it a sermon or a dialogue?

  4. You talk of Cameron’s “own Christian faith in line 1. Cameron has shown by his permitting and encouragement of gay “marriage” that he is NOT a Christian, as no Christian approves of the things that God hates, and actively promotes them. (Romans 1:32)

    • The Queen granted Royal Assent to the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill on 17 July 2013. So well done Helen, you’ve just accused the titular Head of the Church of England of not being a Christian.

      • Imho David, it could be argued that because the Queen only has titular headship under our constitution this allowed the PM to demand that her Coronation Oath to God be compromised. Thus the personal responsibility before God for having broken and contravened that Oath would fall to the PM and not HM.

      • No. The Queen has every right to withhold royal assent to any bill placed before her. No matter how you try to wriggle out of it, the fact is she has given her assent to this bill passing into law. She has approved of gay marriage in defiance of God (well, according to Helen, anyway). Welcome to reality.

      • Thanks David but please note, according to Anthony Hook’s opinion in Liberal Democratic Voice, “The monarch is the one person who cannot have a ‘free vote’.”. His informative outline about Royal Assent generated a fair debate at http://www.libdemvoice.org/opinion-do-parliaments-laws-really-need-royal-assent-in-2013-33999.html

      • All I can do is repeat myself. The head of the Christian church in England has given her approval of gay marriage. According to Helen, this means she is not a true Christian.

        Whatever her personal views on the subject (and even I, as a committed Republican, would admit that the Queen is probably not vehemently opposed to gay marriage) the fact remains that she expressly given her approval. The actual written act will have the official Royal Seal on it.

    • This gay marriage issue is a matter of human rights not a statement of faith when it comes to government policy. Many Christians have come to realise that homosexuality is a proclivity not just a deliberate moral choice. What you do with your feelings /urges obviously should be guided by the Bible if you are a Christian. However, I do NOT think we should make judgments about Cameron’s authenticity of faith purely on this matter. Too many Christians obsess over this gay issue as if nothing else is important. I believe there are genuine indications that God is at work in this man’s life whatever his views on gay marriage. We should pray for him that the decisions he makes are godly not condemn him for one policy over which many Christians would disagree..

  5. Reblogged this on Richard's Watch and commented:
    In view of my musings upon the scriptural issue at the heart of the past fortnight’s furore, Gillan’s report on this important matter makes interesting reading and discussion. The PM’s candid humility about his faith is no doubt real, but the reference to “our saviour” begs the question: why does David Cameron not heed Jesus’ instructions (eg. on the origin and purpose of marriage)? The guidance he wishes for isn’t forthcoming if he won’t take ‘our Saviour’ seriously!

  6. Perhaps Cameron could ensure that the churches “render under Caesar” and start paying proper taxes on their property and investments. After all “we’re all in it together”.

  7. My imaginary friend is guiding my decisions on the lives of everyone in this country. Blindly defend religion no matter the reason. I need to cut taxes for millionaires and never add them to the churches…Sorry, I missed the point when the UK had a theocratic government. I want another vote, I wasn’t aware any of the parties were being lead by a fictional character.

  8. okay, so dismantle Mosques, please

  9. “Now go back to your lovely congregations and tell them I am one of you”

    (All the right words but not necesarily in the right order)

  10. Reblogged this on @PaulWaters and commented:
    Interesting speech. And perhaps a timely reminder that even when we disagree with what they do – and can’t understand how they can even think the way they do – politicians can be motivated by much the same things as the rest of us. I’m sure Cameron genuinely wants to make Britain a better place. I hope he succeeds in that. But I’m sure people of good will will continue to disagree about how to do it…

  11. “We should stand up against persecution of Christians and other religious groups wherever and whenever we can, and should be unashamed in doing so,” said Prime Minister David Cameron.

    Mr. Cameron, you claim yourself to be a christian and you say, in the same breath, that it is right (a right) to be free to worship ANY god.

    You believe in freedom of all religions, freedom to serve and magnify one’s self (XES) justified god.

    BUT the Lord Jesus Christ said to worship Only the One Creator and His Will Alone to serve in obedience and love….for there is no other.

    The Master Jesus Christ, Son of the Only God, never said that it was right (a right) to worship any god….He said that we are to worship the One Creator and to do good to our fellow man…not because of self-rights but because of love for the other.

    Note: Soon the Lord Jesus Christ will return as the Only Sovereign King to rule the earth in power according to and in obedience to the Will of the One Creator Majesty and NOT according to man’s first love for ” his freedom – rights”.

  12. Yup, we have a true Tory government:

    1- The Bishops have come out to condemn it – happens in every conservative administration
    2- The lower orders and the sick are committing suicide (even dying of hunger) for lack of hope (see Atos)
    3- The rich are once again hoarding the loot like there’s no tomorrow – (see “sale” theft? of the post office)
    4- The media in turns endlessly denigrate the poorest for entertainment
    5- And, at last, Jesus is paraded as a Tory mentor – see Thatcher and now Cameron

    A full house. Congratulations.

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