Cameron at Christmas: What Britain owes the Prince of Peace

23 December 2015

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Refuge: a Christmas tree amongst shelters at the Jungle refugee camp in Calais, France

Refuge: a Christmas tree amongst shelters at the Jungle refugee camp in Calais, France

THE Prime Minister emphasised the benefits of living in a Christian country in his Christmas message.

Britain's "important religious roots and Christian values" had been instrumental in making it "such a successful home to people of all faiths and none", he said.

At Christmas, Mr Cameron said, "we celebrate the birth of God's only son, Jesus Christ - the Prince of Peace.

"As a Christian country, we must remember what his birth represents: peace, mercy, goodwill, and above all, hope."

Mr Cameron also recalled that, although Christians "from Asia to Africa" would be going to church on Christmas morning "full of joy", many would be in fear of persecution. And he particularly about those in camps or makeshift shelters, "driven from their homes by Daesh and Assad".

The plight of refugees, as well as those caught in floods, were homeless, poor or hungry, was mentioned repeatedly in this year’s Christmas messages, as church leaders invited their flocks to reflect on the events of the past year.

In the diocese of Blackburn, the focus was on the devastation caused by severe flooding in the North of England earlier this month (News, 18 December). The Bishop of Lancaster, the Rt Revd Geoff Pearson, urged people not to distance themselves from the pain, and praised communities for coming together with a “sense of giving”.

The Bishop of Blackburn, the Rt Revd Julian Henderson, said that natural disasters sent a painful but powerful message to the Paris climate-change summit (News, 14 December). He urged Christians to remember the importance of home, and the homeless, including those lost to the floods or abandoned due to civil conflict.

The Bishop of Burnley, the Rt Revd Philip North, compared the dark night on which Jesus was born with the “human darkness” of the poorest in the UK, who were relying on foodbanks and payday loans, and with the homeless and the persecuted both at home and abroad.

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Charity was high on the agenda. The Bishop of Southampton, the Rt Revd Jonathan Frost, used his Christmas message to praise the work of the Red Rose Association, who work with disabled children and young people in the diocese.

The Bishop of Winchester, the Rt Revd Tim Dakin, announced that his diocese’s dual appeal to support refugees from Syria and victims of flooding in Burma earlier this year had so far raised £9000. The money would go to the Anglican Relief and Development Fund, and the UK resettlement charity Refugee Action.

Commenting on the “darkness” of the refugee crisis in Europe, the Bishop of Basingstoke, the Rt Revd David Williams, said: “God took evil things, hatred, fear, violence and revenge, and he used those very things as the raw material from which to quarry our salvation.”

In the Church in Wales, a Christmas sermon by the Archbishop of Wales, the Rt Revd Barry Morgan, advises that “quibbling” over the number of refugees allowed into the UK shows “a failure to feel what it is like to be in their shoes”. The Government has lost its “sense of proportion” in relation to the crisis, he says, by agreeing to accept only 20,000 refugees in the UK in the next five years. The focus should be on understanding why people are risking the dangerous journey across the seas to Europe.

On the decision of cinema groups to ban the C of E’s Lord’s Prayer advert, to avoid causing offence (News, 27 November), the Bishop of Bangor, the Rt Revd Andrew John, said that he had “some sympathy”. Asking God to overthrow tyranny and terrorism through prayer could sound “subversive and dangerous”, he said. Christians must read the prayer more closely to understand the true meaning of the Kingdom and win “better lives”.

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