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Orissa violence: Italy urges 'decisive action'

world Updated: Aug 29, 2008 17:04 IST
Italy urges 'decisive action' to stop Hindu-Christian clashes in India

Italy will call for "decisive action" to prevent and stop religious violence between Christians and Hindus when the Indian ambassador will be received at the Italian foreign ministry on Monday, ANSA news agency reported.

Italy said on Thursday it would summon India's ambassador to stress the need for "decisive action" against what it called "unacceptable violence" in eastern India but did not give a date.

Pope Benedict XVI on Wednesday "firmly condemned" the violence in Orissa, where Australian missionary Graham Staines and his two young sons were burnt alive in 1999 -- a crime for which a Hindu man is serving life in jail.

At least 1,500 people have fled their homes for shelters in eastern India after days of violent clashes between Hindus and Christians that have killed at least 10, officials said Thursday.

Hundreds of houses have been burned to the ground and police have been ordered to shoot on sight after the killing of a popular Hindu holy leader on Saturday sparked riots.

Hindu-Christian clashes erupt periodically in India where 2.3 per cent of the more than 1.1 billion population are Christians.

Hardline Hindus accuse missionaries of "bribing" poor tribals and low-caste Hindus, who often face strong discrimination, to convert by offering education and health care.

A spokesman for the Catholic bishops' body said caste prejudice was also spurring the sectarian violence, with most of the converts in the riot-hit areas Dalits -- those on the lowest rung of the ancient Hindu caste hierarchy -- or tribals.