THE Church of England has accused the Government of appearing to have no "coherent or comprehensive approach" to tackling the rise of Islamic extremism by the former Bishop of Bradford.

In a strongly-worded attack on David Cameron's handling of the crisis in Iraq - backed by the Archbishop of Canterbury - the Right Reverend Nick Baines, now the Bishop of West Yorkshire and the Dales, said "many" senior clergy were seriously concerned.

He has written to the Prime Minister questioning whether there is any long-term strategy and criticising a "growing silence" over the fate of 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 the 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 - particularly insofar as the military, political, economic and humanitarian demands interconnect."

The Church internationally should be "a primary partner in addressing this complexity", he told him.

The Bishop welcomed the "notable and admirable" focus on the plight of the minority Yazidi community, who have been at the centre of an international aid operation as they flee IS massacres.

"However, there has been increasing silence about the plight of tens of thousands of Christians who have been displaced, driven from cities and homelands, and who face a bleak future," he went on.

"Despite appalling persecution, they seem to have fallen from consciousness, and I wonder why.

"Does your Government have a coherent response to the plight of these huge numbers of Christians whose plight appears to be less regarded than that of others? Or are we simply reacting to the loudest media voice at any particular time?"

Meanwhile, David Cameron said the advance of Islamic State extremists poses a "clear danger" to the future safety of Britain's streets, as he explained his decision to arm Kurdish fighters.

Body armour and counter-explosive equipment are among high-tech items being considered as part of a shipment of military hardware to be sent to Iraq to bolster out-gunned anti-IS forces.