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Rishi Sunak and Sir Keir Starmer both praise Christians in Easter messages - but Labour leader takes chance to talk of 'new beginnings'

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has spoken of a time for "new beginnings" in his Easter message, as he looks towards the coming general election.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has also released a message for Easter Sunday, calling it a time to "pause and reflect".

But the political rivals both highlighted the role of Christians in the UK.

Mr Sunak praised the "incredible" work of Christians, in line with their values of "compassion, charity and self-sacrifice".

While Sir Keir spoke of his "gratitude to the Christian community in the UK and beyond, for their generosity and compassion".

In his message, the prime minister said: "This weekend, as people come together to celebrate and reflect on the message at the heart of the Easter festival, I want to pay tribute to the incredible work of Christians in this country.

"To the churches, charities, volunteers and fundraisers who live the Christian values of compassion, charity and self-sacrifice, supporting those in need and demonstrating what it means to 'love thy neighbour'.

"Many, I know, will also be thinking of those in pain and suffering around the world and Christians, persecuted because of their faith, who are unable to celebrate Easter freely.

"For many of us in the UK, Easter is a chance to pause and reflect and an opportunity to spend some precious time with our families and a moment to enjoy the start of Spring.

"So this weekend, let me wish you all a very happy and peaceful Easter."

But Labour leader Sir Keir's talk of renewal will be seen as the more symbolic intervention in an election year, as the man hoping to replace Mr Sunak in Downing Street.

During a visit to St Martin-in-the-Fields church in London before Easter, he said: "The Easter story is one of hope and renewal, of overcoming adversity and light prevailing over darkness.

"As families and friends gather to celebrate the holiday we turn our thoughts towards new beginnings, our future and how things can change for the better."

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Talking with Christians at the church, Sir Keir added: "Faith is really important. It's a place where people can invest a lot of themselves and find comfort, hope and a sense of security.

"This Easter I'd like to express my gratitude to the Christian community in the UK and beyond, for their generosity and compassion.

"At this time of optimism and new beginnings, I thank them for everything they do."