Stand up for our Christianity, David Cameron tells UK

David Cameron talks to officials as he visits the Church of the Nativity in the West Bank town of Bethlehem on Thursday, March 13, 2014 In March, the PM visited the church in Bethlehem situated where Jesus is said to have been born

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Britons should be "more confident about our status as a Christian country", Prime Minister David Cameron has said.

This did not mean "doing down" other religions or "passing judgement" on those with no faith, he insisted in an article for the Church Times.

But Christians "make a difference to people's lives" and should be more evangelical about it, he suggested.

The government has faced strong criticism from senior clergy over its welfare reforms.

In February, 27 Anglican bishops warned that benefit cuts were forcing thousands of people to rely on handouts from food banks.

The leader of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, had said a week earlier it was a "disgrace" that in such a wealthy country there were people who could not afford to feed themselves.

'Healing power'

But Mr Cameron said: "We all believe in many of the same principles," adding that churches were "vital partners".

Start Quote

Do I drop to my knees and ask for guidance whenever an issue comes up? No, I don't. But it's part of who I am”

End Quote David Cameron Speaking in 2009

Although he described himself as a "classic" member of the Church of England - "not that regular in attendance, and a bit vague on some of the more difficult parts of the faith" - he rejected the idea that in an "ever more secular age" people should not talk about their religion.

"Crucially, the Christian values of responsibility, hard work, charity, compassion, humility, and love are shared by people of every faith and none - and we should be confident in standing up to defend them," he wrote.

"Many people tell me it is easier to be Jewish or Muslim in Britain than in a secular country precisely because the tolerance that Christianity demands of our society provides greater space for other religious faiths, too."

He said he had "felt at first hand the healing power of the Church's pastoral care" and Christians "know how powerful faith can be in the toughest of times".

'Heat or eat'

The PM acknowledged that the government's welfare reforms were "controversial", but added: "I sometimes feel not enough is made of our efforts to tackle poverty.

"It is through the dignity of work, the reforms to welfare that make work pay, and our efforts to deliver the best schools and skills for young people, that our long-term economic plan can best help people to a more secure future."

A letter published in the Daily Mirror in February from 43 Christian leaders, including 27 Anglican bishops, said: "We often hear talk of hard choices.

"Surely few can be harder than that faced by the tens of thousands of older people who must 'heat or eat' each winter, harder than those faced by families whose wages have stayed flat while food prices have gone up 30% in just five years."

The article is the latest demonstration of Mr Cameron's faith.

Last week, in his Easter message, he spoke of the "peace" he found in Christianity.

In 2009, Mr Cameron told BBC One's Songs of Praise: "I believe in God and I'm a Christian and I worship - not as regularly as I should - but I go to church.

"Do I drop to my knees and ask for guidance whenever an issue comes up? No, I don't. But it's part of who I am."

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