Recalling her own religious upbringing in a recorded Easter message Theresa May stressed the importance of people speaking about their faith, adding: “And that absolutely includes their faith in Christ.”
She said: “This Easter I think of those values that we share, values that I learnt in my own childhood, growing up in a vicarage.
“Values of compassion, community, citizenship. The sense of obligation we have to one another.
“These are values we all hold in common, and values that are visibly lived out everyday by Christians, as well as by people of other faiths or none. We should be confident about the role that Christianity has to play in the lives of people in our country.
This Easter I think of those values that we share, values that I learnt in my own childhood, growing up in a vicarage
“And we should treasure the strong tradition that we have in this country of religious tolerance and freedom of speech.
“We must continue to ensure that people feel able to speak about their faith, and that absolutely includes their faith in Christ.”
She also referred to persecuted Christians, saying we should be “mindful of Christians and religious minorities around the world who do not enjoy these same freedoms but who practise their religion in secret and often in fear”.
The message came as last week hundreds of Christians celebrated Palm Sunday in burned-out churches in the Iraqi towns of Qaraqosh and Karamles near Mosul that were recently liberated from Islamic State.
The displaced Christians haven’t been able to return to their places of worship since being forced to flee in August 2014.
There is continuing insecurity in the region, and houses and infrastructure have been destroyed.
Mrs May also called on the nation to unite behind Brexit in the video message, which was released on YouTube by Downing Street.
She said: “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 of us – the opportunities that stem from our decision to leave the European Union and embrace the world – our shared interests, our shared ambitions, and above all our shared values can, and must, bring us together.”
In his Easter message Jeremy Corbyn called on people to use the principles at the heart of Christianity to overcome society’s problems.
The Labour leader said: “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, including millions forced to become refugees.
“We need to respond to these problems head on, through action and support for social justice, peace and reconciliation.”