THE Archbishop of York has urged the Government to show leadership to support those suffering in Iraq.

Dr John Sentamu said the Government should act internationally and domestically to protect those seeking asylum and to press for the creation of a "safe zone" in Iraq.

Writing on his website, he said: "The time for hard hitting speeches and condemnation has passed. What is required now is action to protect those at risk from slaughter."

The Archbishop, currently holding a week-long prayer vigil in York Minster for peace, called for the Prime Minister David Cameron to take decisive action.

He wrote: “Three weeks ago, on August 6th, I wrote privately to the Prime Minister thanking him for the commitment of humanitarian aid committed by the Government to the situation in Iraq. In that letter I also raised the issue of asylum recognising that the granting of asylum will not bring an end to the crisis but is a humanitarian act aimed at relieving suffering. I await a substantive reply.

"I raise this not to embarrass the Prime Minister, for whom I pray, but to urge him and his colleagues to act justly and swiftly in the face of suffering. He has already spearheaded the response to those suffering on Mount Sinjar and approved fighters to accompany aid drops. But more still needs to be done.

“The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has stated that ISIL are “systematically targeting men, women and children based on their ethnic, religious or sectarian affiliation.” For me this is not ethnic cleansing but human slaughter."

Dr Sentamu called on the Government to use its membership of the UN Security Council to support the creation of safe havens and also to follow the French, German and Australian Governments in offering asylum to those being persecuted.

The Archbishop spoke out following United Nations reports that 670 people were executed by ISIL in the city of Mosul.

He said it was essential the Government did not only act but showed leadership by encouraging others to as well. He said: “They should follow the example of Sir John Major who created Safe havens for the Marsh Arabs when Saddam Hussein used chemical and biological weapons against the Kurds.

“Domestically the time has come for the Government to show leadership in offering asylum to those at risk of persecution."

He said the events in Iraq demonstrated humanity's "unbridled capacity for brutality" and said: "Unbridled violence brings untold suffering to victims but also dehumanises perpetrators to such an extent that murder becomes an act of the ordinary instead of a sin against the sanctity of human life."