CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 17 August 2019

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Pakistan’s clerics denounce radicalism

LAHORE (UCAN): More than 500 Muslim clerics gathered in Islamabad, Pakistan, for the Seerat-i-Rehmatul Aalameen Conference issued the seven-point Islamabad Declaration on January 6. The declaration, in part, condemned murders committed “on the pretext of religious belief,” which are acts against the teachings of Islam.
 
It also said that any Islamic sectarian group could not be declared as infidel. “Any Muslim or non-Muslim could not be declared as doomed to death extra-judicially,” the declaration stated.
 
“No one—Muslim or non-Muslim—can be declared as punishable by death. Only courts could deliver a death sentence,” it said.
 
The declaration likewise recognised that Pakistan is a multi-ethnic and multi-religious country. It also stated that it is the government’s obligation to firmly deal with those who threaten the sacred places of non-Muslims.
 
The document made a special mention of Catholic mother, Asia Bibi, who was acquitted of blasphemy on 30 October 2018.
 
Bibi’s acquittal and release resulted in hardline Islamists taking to the streets in protest late last year. As part of that, protestors associated with Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) said the country’s chief justice was now “liable to be killed” and called for a rebellion against the country’s army chief following the acquittal.
 
Two months ago, Lahore police took TLP chief, Khadim Hussain Rizvi, into “protective custody.”
 
Moulana Tahir Ashrafi, chairperson of Pakistan Ulema Council (PUC) stressed that no sect or cleric is above the law.
 
“They are the reason people are associating terrorism with Islam,” he said. “Now that the army and government are on the same page, the conditions are optimum for spreading tolerance in society.”
 
Ashrafi, who has led PUC for more than five years, described the declaration as a big success.
 
“We tried to issue a similar declaration in 2002 but the government at that time ignored such efforts. People were afraid to speak about harmony between sects and other faiths,” he said.
 
Dominican Father James Channan, regional coordinator of United Religions Initiative Pakistan, welcomed the declaration. 
 
“Such initiatives increase the sense of security and protection among the Christian community,” Father Channan said.

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