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Anti-Christian violence reported in India

(ran PW PS editions)

Mobs torched two more Roman Catholic prayer halls in India on Wednesday (Dec. 30), continuing the spate of anti-Christian violence in Gujarat state that began on Christmas.

"We have received complaints of mobs setting on fire two prayer halls last night and additional (police) forces have been rushed to these areas," a top police official in Gujarat told Reuters.

A Vatican representative in New Delhi said the church's ambassador had been in touch with the government concerning the attacks and the U.S. embassy said American officials have been in touch with Indian government officials for the same reason.

The Asian Age daily newspaper said other Western countries, including Britain, Italy and Germany, had expressed concern to the Indian government about the attacks.

In New Delhi, some 40 protesters from various religious and secular groups, demonstrated in front of the office of the Gujarat representative in Delhi.

Christian activists blame several militant and nationalist Hindu organizations for the violence, including the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council) for instigating the attacks on the Christian community.

Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, whose Bharatiya Janata Party is considered close to the VHP, disassociated himself from the group and assured safety to the Christians.

"India is a secular state and all citizens irrespective of religion and caste and region ... are to be provided with full safeguards, full security," he told reporters Wednesday, Reuters reported.

"In the name of the state, I ask forgiveness. I ask all Guatemalans to forgive one another ... and together join the pilgrimage toward the goal of national reconciliation."

President Alvaro Arzu of Guatemala, asking forgiveness for the role the government played during the nation's 36-year-long civil war.