Mixing religion and politics has had a long history in India and elsewhere, but in the United Kingdom, Prime Minister Theresa May’s message on Easter has raised hackles after some saw it as hinting that God would have voted to leave the European Union.
May mentioned the ongoing process of leaving the EU in last week’s message on Vaisakhi too, but the widely publicised Easter message has not gone down too well. Leaders of other parties have also delivered their Eastern messages, but without mentioning Brexit.
Daughter of a vicar, May said her video message: “This year, after a period of intense debate over the right future for our country, there is a sense that people are coming together and uniting behind the opportunities that lie ahead. For at heart, this country is one great union of people and nations with a proud history and a bright future”.
“And as we face the opportunities ahead – the opportunities that stem from our decision to leave the EU, and embrace the world – our shared interests, our shared ambitions and, above all, our shared values can and must bring us together,” May, who often highlights her Christian faith inside and outside parliament, added.
Alistair Campbell, better known as a spin doctor and ally of former prime minister Tony Blair, responded to May’s message: “I think even vicars’ daughters should be a little wary of allying their politics to their faith. She does not exactly say if God had a vote he would have voted Leave, but she gets closer to it than she should”.
“If she really thinks she is leading a united country full of hope ... I suggest she gets out more...I don’t think I have ever known Britain more divided. As for her talk of compassion, community, citizenship and obligations to one another, she has taken an axe to those with regard to Britain’s relations to the rest of the world, and plenty of her domestic agenda points in the opposite direction,” he added.
In her Vaisakhi message hailing Sikhism, May said: “Your values - of equality and respect, of fairness and helping those less fortunate than yourselves – are values we need more than ever, as we forge a new, ambitious, role for Britain in the world”.
“I am determined to build a country that works for everyone; a country where no matter who you are, you can achieve your goals - and the Sikh community is a vital part of that mission”.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said in his message: “We hear painful stories every day, of homelessness, poverty or crisis in our health service – or across the world, of the devastating consequences of war and conflict … It would be easy to retreat into our private lives because the challenges seem overwhelming, or allow ourselves to be divided and blame others”.
“But we need to respond to these problems head on, through action and support for social justice, peace and reconciliation. Those principles are at the heart of Christianity”, he added.
Liberal Democrats leader Tim Farron said: “I don’t want the Christian message to be stolen by the nostalgic nationalists, just as no Liberal should seek to appropriate Jesus for their own purposes either. But the Easter message is one of internationalism, if you like – Jesus died for you no matter who you are or where you are from”.