A YOUNG Mormon missionary badly beaten by a gang of teenages has said he forgives his attackers and has vowed to continue working in Bolton.

Sebastian Herrey, aged 21, and his colleague Brandon Woolsey, aged 19, were attacked by 14 youths as they took a short cut along Raglan Street, Halliwell, after missing their bus last Friday evening.

The men are both on a two-year placement in the town working as missionaries, known as Elders, with the local Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

Mr Herrey, who is from Gothenburg, Sweden, and Mr Woolsey, from Utah, in the USA, ended up spending a night in the Royal Bolton Hospital after they were confronted by the teenagers and chased more than 500 metres before getting help from people at the Lord Raglan pub.

Mr Herrey suffered a suspected fractured jaw, gashed forehead and bruising, while Mr Woolsey was left with a black eye, cut lip and bruising.

Their ordeal began as they were on their way to visit someone interested in learning more about their faith.

They were walking past the cemetery in Astley Lane when the youths commented that they were wearing suits and began shouting abuse.

Mr Herrey said they decided to explain who they were and they thought trouble had been averted when one of the youths replied "Pray for us guys", and gave them a thumbs-up sign.

Mr Herrey said: "We have met a lot of people like this before, they have always respected us."

But seconds later a bottle was thrown at them, Mr Herrey was hit on the head from behind and both men were punched and kicked.

The attackers even ignored the men's offer to take their camera and mobile phone and continued the beating. Mr Hervey, who believes they were attacked because of their religion, said: "They were just doing it for the fun of it. They understood who we were.

"I know that religion is not generally accepted in this world and it is sad."

He added: "I don't hold anything against them."

Mr Herrey's parents, Per and Eva-Linda, flew to England as soon as they heard about the attack on their son.

Per, who won the Eurovision Song Contest for Sweden in 1984, said he is concerned for the attackers as well as his own child.

He said: "I feel sad for them because if they don't have anything better to do other than drinking and beating people up then they should reconsider their lives."

Both the victims say they are grateful for the help they have received from the hospital, police and their church, and they have vowed to continue their missionary work in the town.

Mr Woolsey said: "I have still got 20 months to go and I want to see where it goes."

Three boys, aged 15, 16 and 17, have been arrested in connection with the incident and released on police bail while inquiries continue.