LONDON (Christian Examiner) – Prime Minister David Cameron said in his Easter greeting to the people of the United Kingdom that Great Britain is a Christian country and "we are proud of it."
Cameron's Easter greetings are an annual tradition, and like the greetings offered by Queen Elizabeth II at Christmas, have taken on an increasingly Christian tone over the past several years.
This year, Cameron said Easter represents a message of hope for millions of Christians in Great Britain and around the world, many of whom are suffering under persecution and terrorism. He said the hope of Easter is represented by the "many faith-inspired projects" in the country that assist the homeless, create job programs, and work to bring families together through adoption.
Cameron also said the hope of Easter was evident in the compassion of church leaders who visit the sick in the hospital and offer comfort to those affected by grief.
"And we see that hope in the aid workers and volunteers who so often risk their own lives to save the lives of others in war-torn regions across the world, and at the heart of all these acts of kindness and courage is a set of values and beliefs that have helped to make our country what it is today – values of responsibility, hard work, charity, compassion and pride in working for the common good and honoring the social obligations we have to one another, to our families and our communities," Cameron said.
"These are values we treasure. They are Christian values and they should give us the confidence to say, 'yes, we are a Christian country and we are proud of it,'" he said.
The prime minister said the values created in the culture by Christianity speak to all people, whether they are Christian or not – and even if they have no faith. Those values must be defended, Cameron said.
"When we see Christians today in 2016 being persecuted for their beliefs in other parts of the world – we must speak out and stand with those who bravely practice their faith. And when terrorists try to destroy our way of life as they have tried to do again so despicably in Brussels this week – we must stand together and show that we will never be cowed by terror," the prime minister said.
Cameron called on the British people to defeat the "pernicious ideology" of radical Islam by standing up for Christian values and English civil society.
Cameron's words were echoed by Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, who wrote in the UK Daily Mail over the weekend that the terrorists who attacked Brussels last week "claimed religious justification" for their killing of more than 30 people and the wounding of hundreds more.
"A lie, of course, for we know that when people conscript God to violence the only thing they get is an empty idol, for God is love. The answer to this great challenge is found in Easter, in the empty tomb, not in fear, but in hope, because God raised Jesus from the dead and in doing so confirmed his claim that light overcomes darkness, that the life of God overcomes death, that the goodness of God overcomes evil, that the love of God overcomes hatred," Welby wrote in his Easter message.
U.S. President Barack Obama did not issue a formal greeting for Easter. Last year, Obama's message mentioned his family's commemoration of the sacrifice of "God's only Son, who endured agony on the cross so we could live with him." The greeting, however, also took on an interfaith tone.
"Whether we're Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, or Buddhist; whether faith in God shapes our daily lives completely or not at all, we believe that with the common effort, and shared sacrifice, a brighter future is just around the bend," Obama said in 2015. "And we embrace our obligation to do something meaningful, something lasting, with the precious time we've been allotted on this earth."
The president's Twitter account, however, provided a one-line statement on March 25 and March 27. The March 27 statement this year read:
"We wish all who celebrate a blessed and joyful Easter."