The Christian community on Monday called upon Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and members of the National Integration Council (NIC) to curb incidents of violence against the community.
In a joint statement issued by Archbishop of Delhi, Vincent Concessao, Principal of St Stephen's College Valson Thampu, and Secretary General of All India Christian Council John Dayal to NIC, the community leaders said that Christians should be allowed to return in peace to Kandhamal and other districts of Orissa.
"We must be allowed to return home in peace... Allowed to profess our faith in honour without fear and without the sword of forcible conversions... That is what the Constitution assures us," the statement said.
The statement which has been issued even as the NIC began its meeting earlier in the day under the leadership of the Prime Minister, called upon the government to take steps to curb hate crimes.
Listing out actions, which it claimed the government should have taken long back, the statement suggested that Communal Violence Bill should be enacted. Also comprehensive relief and rehabilitation policies should be drafted by the government.
It also said that adequate representation to all minorities should be given in the police, administrative and judicial systems, while a thorough revamp of the educational system should be done.
Reacting to some of the main points to be discussed in the NIC meeting like social structure, economic development, education and communal harmony, the statement said that the Christian community feels that "caste is an affront and an insult to human dignity....We hold every man and woman to be made by God in His own image."
On economic development, the statement said that "government's single-minded focus must be on equitable distribution of the fruits of development beginning with very basics like food, water, a roof over every head, education for children and primary health."
It also called upon the state to "reclaim its role in the educational system which it has ceded to private and big business. Rural education must be closely monitored".
On communal harmony, the Christian leaders said that an Equal Opportunities Commission should be created by the government through law and "close monitoring of development plans" should be done.