THE RECTOR of Bolton Priory has written to his local MP, asking him to urge the Government to offer sanctuary to Iraqi Christians who have been forced from their homes.

Following the lead of a number of Church of England bishops, the Rev Simon Cowling, has written to Julian Smith, the MP for Skipton and Ripon, asking him to urge the government to offer sanctuary to some of the tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians who have been forced from their homes by the forces of the Islamic State.

In the letter, Mr Cowling points out that offering sanctuary would send out an unambiguous message about the Government’s fundamental stance on the rights of all religious minorities in Iraq and the wider Middle East.

He told Mr Smith the position of Christians in Iraq was part of a "complex, fast moving, and increasingly chaotic situation across Iraq and parts of Syria" and added that most members of the community would prefer to remain in places where they and their forebears have lived and worshipped for two millennia than to begin new lives elswhere.

"Nevertheless, I believe we have a twofold obligation to offer sanctuary in the way the bishops urge," said Mr Cowling.

He told Mr Smith the extensive military intervention in Iraq ten years ago gives the UK government a measure of moral responsibility for assisting those who have become unwitting and innocent victims of the current political, ethnic, and religious instability in Iraq.