Bishop challenges Cameron on Islamic State

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The Church of England has accused the Government of appearing to have no “coherent or comprehensive approach” to tackling the rise of Islamic extremism.

In a strongly-worded attack on David Cameron’s handling of the crisis in Iraq – backed by the Archbishop of Canterbury – the Bishop of Leeds said “many” senior clergy were seriously concerned.

The Rt Rev Nicholas Baines has written to the Prime Minister questioning whether there is any long-term strategy and criticising a “growing silence” over the plight of persecuted Christians.

In particular he raised questions about Ministers’ failure to respond to calls – including through parliamentary questions – to set out what arrangements would be made to offer asylum in the UK. And he expressed fears over the future of the Government’s “commitment to religious freedom”.

The cleric said he recognised “the complexity and interconnectedness of the challenges” but joined criticism of an apparent failure to respond effectively to the advance of Islamic State fighters.

“It appears that, in common with the United States and other partners, the UK is responding to events in a reactive way, and it is difficult to discern the strategic intentions behind this approach,” he wrote in a letter which he issued to newspapers and published on his website.

“Please can you tell me what is the overall strategy that holds together the UK Government’s response to both the humanitarian situation and what IS is actually doing in Syria and Iraq?

“Behind this question is the serious concern that we do not seem to have a coherent or comprehensive approach to Islamist extremism as it is developing across the globe.

“Islamic State, Boko Haram and other groups represent particular manifestations of a global phenomenon, and it is not clear what our broader global strategy is.”