Prime Minister David Cameron’s effort to describe his own Christian faith at Easter has backfired, with some critics accusing him of fostering “alienation and division” by characterising Britain as a “Christian country”.
The fuss over the remarks fits into the debates on national identity that are going on all over Western Europe, in the face of increasing immigration, especially from non-Christian societies.
The debate is particularly striking in Britain, which is also asking other fundamental questions: Whether Scotland wants to remain within it, and whether it wants to remain within the European Union.
Mr Cameron wrote an article for a weekly Anglican publication called Church Times, explaining that his own faith is deep, if “a bit vague” on the “more difficult parts of the faith”, and that his attendance in church is “not that regular”.
He said he wanted to infuse politics with Christian values such as responsibility, hard work, charity, compassion, humility and love.
That much seemed to pass muster. But Mr Cameron also wrote: “I believe we should be more confident about our status as a Christian country, more ambitious about expanding the role of faith-based organisations and, frankly, more evangelical about a faith that compels us to get out there and make a difference to people’s lives.”
Britain has an established church, the Church of England, which is Christian and whose supreme governor is the Queen; Mr Cameron is a member.
Mr Cameron hastened to add: “Being more confident about our status as a Christian country does not somehow involve doing down other faiths or passing judgment on those with no faith at all.”
But his effort to head off criticism failed and his article prompted a four-paragraph letter to British newspaper The Daily Telegraph organised by Professor Jim Al-Khalili — an Iraqi-born physicist who is the president of the British Humanist Association — and signed by 56 prominent people, including scientists, authors, broadcasters and comedians.
The letter accused Mr Cameron of misrepresenting Britain.
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SOURCE: TODAY Online