Bradford's Area Bishop says questions must continue to be asked about Government's handling of Islamic extremism

Bradford's Area Bishop says questions must continue to be asked about Government's handling of Islamic extremism

QUESTIONS: The Area Bishop of Bradford, the Rev Dr Toby Howarth

QUESTIONS: The Area Bishop of Bradford, the Rev Dr Toby Howarth

First published in News Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Photograph of the Author by , T&A Reporter

BRADFORD'S new Area Bishop Toby Howarth has backed his boss's criticism of the Government appearing to have no "coherent or comprehensive approach" to tackling the rise of Islamic extremism.

The Rev Dr Howarth, 52, who visited Bradford today on the day Downing Street announced his appointment, said the former Bishop of Bradford, the Right Reverend Nick Baines who is now the Bishop of West Yorkshire & The Dales, had "done the right thing" to ask questions about David Cameron's handling of the crisis in Iraq.

In a strongly-worded letter - supported by the Archbishop of Canterbury - the Rt Rev Baines had said "many" senior clergy were seriously concerned.

He also questioned whether there was any long-term strategy and criticised a "growing silence" over the fate of the plight of persecuted Christians, expressing fears over the future of the Government's "commitment to religious freedom".

The Rev Dr Howarth, who is married with three daughters and is an interfaith expert at Lambeth Palace, said Bishop Baines had asked questions that had not been answered.

He said: "Sometimes difficult questions have to be asked. He did what other people should be doing - I hope I will have the wisdom to ask questions too. It's what other people should also be doing," he said.

Despite his interfaith background, he said his new role in Bradford was not as a diversity officer and that his focus and priority would be the Church and how to make it grow and continue to thrive.

He said his first task would be to get to know the people of Bradford, working alongside the clergy and congregation - he will be consecrated at York Minster on Friday, October 1.

"Bradford is a huge gift and has a lot to offer the rest of the country," he said.

"It's diversity is one thing but there's more to it than that. It has been in the news in the past for all the wrong this but it's turned a corner.

"It's an exciting time to be coming here. I'm not here to be a diversity officer, I'm here for the Church - that's my real priority."

This Easter, history was made when the Diocese of West Yorkshire & The Dales was created covering 2,630 square miles served by 656 Anglican churches - split into five smaller Episcopal areas each with their own Area Bishop and Archdeacon responsible for local decision-making.

The Rev Dr Howarth has served as a parish priest and has worked and studied in several countries from India and Uganda to the Netherlands - working with the Archbishop of Canterbury more recently he has also helped develop the Church of England's relationships and dialogue with other religious leaders on issues from global trafficking to religious freedom.

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