“Let us take pride in our Christian heritage,” prime minister Theresa May has said in her Christmas message.
In an address that stressed the role of the emergency services and volunteers, the prime minister thanked “all those whose service to others means they will be spending time away from their loved ones this Christmas”.
She also praised the Churches Together initiative, an ecumenical organisation that brings together the vast majority of Christian denominations in Britain.
“As we celebrate the birth of Christ, let us celebrate all those selfless acts – and countless others – that epitomise the values we share: Christian values of love, service and compassion that are lived out every day in our country by people all faiths and none.
“Let us take pride in our Christian heritage and the confidence it gives us to ensure that in Britain you can practice your faith free from question or fear.
“Let us remember those around the world today who have been denied those freedoms – from Christians in some parts of the Middle East to the sickening persecution of the Rohingya Muslims.
“And let us reaffirm our determination to stand up for the freedom of people of all religions to speak about and practice their beliefs in peace and safety.”
Her words come at the end of a year where her government has proposed radical social policies that have caused concern among many Christians.
In July, equalities minister Justine Greening announced plans to allow people to change their legally-recognised gender without a medical diagnosis. While announcing the policy in an interview, Ms Greening also called on major faiths to “keep up with modern attitudes” on same-sex marriage.
In July, the government also announced it would fund abortions in England for women from Northern Ireland, which has much stronger pro-life laws. Explaining the policy, Justine Greening wrote: “At present women from Northern Ireland are asked for payment, and from now on it is our proposal that this will no longer happen.”
The government is also currently examining whether to introduce so-called “buffer zones” that would ban prayer vigils outside abortion clinics.
Mrs May, whose father was an Anglican vicar, has previously spoken openly about her Christian faith on multiple occasions, saying in an interview earlier this year that it “guides me in everything I do”.