“It’s absolutely clear that Christians in Syria are being persecuted,” he said. “We know for example that in many areas of Aleppo – historic Christian areas since the first century – people are being chased out in large numbers.

“I would encourage people to pray very strongly, continue to pray and to support this kind of campaign, and to write to MPs asking them to think very carefully about the wisdom of supplying further weapons to an area of such complex and extreme violence.”

Welby pledged to share “what I have said to you today” with government figures when he meets with them.

His concerns about providing weapons echo those expressed earlier by two leading Catholic bishops in the U.S., who in a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry wrote that sending more arms into the conflict zone “simply increases the lethality of the violence and contributes to the suffering of the Syrian people.”