More than 500 Muslim clerics gathered in the Pakistani city of Islamabad to condemn terrorism and radicalism. Clerics at the Seerat-i-Rehmatul Aalameen Conference on Jan. 6 issued the 7-point Islamabad Declaration which in part condemned murders committed "on the pretext of religious belief." Such acts they said were against the teachings of Islam. Also included in the declaration was the statement 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 recognized 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 Oct. 30, 2018. The release of Bibi resulted in hard-line Islamists taking to the streets in protest late last year. As part of that, Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP)
protestors said the country's chief justice was now "liable to be killed" and called for a rebellion against the country's army chief following Bibi's acquittal. Two months ago, Lahore police took TLP chief Khadim Hussain Rizvi
into "protective custody." Moulana Tahir Ashrafi, chairman of Pakistan Ulema Council (PUC) told ucanews.com that no sect or cleric are above the law. "They are the reason people are associating terrorism with Islam," said Ashrafi. "Now that the army and government are on the same page, the conditions are optimum for spreading tolerance in society." Ashrafi, who has been leading 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," said Father Channan.