Article source: http://www.oikoumene.org/en/press-centre/news/a-voice-of-hope-and-justice-in-a-sad-context
22 February 2018
By: Claus Grue
In June last year, human rights advocate Raanan Mallek appeared as one of the ”12 Faces of Hope” in WCC’s #SeekJusticeAndPeace campaign to commemorate 50 years of Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories. Last week he participated in the ”Meeting on the Implementation of the Plan of Action for Religious Leaders and Actors to Prevent Incitement to Violence that Could lead to Atrocity Crimes”, which was held at the United Nations in Vienna with the World Council of Churches (WCC) as co-host.
In both cases, his presence is a sign of his firm commitment to equal rights, regardless of religion, race or other differences.
A concrete example of that is his engagement in Hands of Peace, which is an interfaith organization developing peace-building and leadership skills in Israeli, Palestinian and American teens through the power of dialogue and personal relationships.
Raanan is also a driving force behind the Praying Together in Jerusalem, a movement, where Muslims, Jews, Christians and people of other faiths gather on the last Thursday of every month to pray their respective traditional prayer together side-by-side.
As positive as such a program is, Raanan is well aware of the reality confronting the Palestinians:
”I feel religiously mandated to represent a voice of justice for the others in our land, first and foremost the Palestinian people. Putting myself into their shoes, the outlook is indeed bleak. Nothing has changed with the occupation and no one seems willing to deal with the real issues of it. It is incredibly sad, because we are meant to be together and our destinies are wrapped up in one another.”
Since his participation in WCC’s 12 Faces of Hope campaign, he has received plenty of both positive and negative feedback.
"As a board member of the Rabbis for Human Rights, I’ve been accused of being used as a token of a pro-Palestinian agenda of the WCC, which by some has been deliberately misinterpreted as anti-Israeli. That is of course not the case. WCC is committed to taking a non-biased position and I am personally committed to helping it express this to potential Jewish partners. My participation in the campaign is solely a human rights issue,” Mallek says.
In spite of a seemingly deteriorating situation for the Palestinian people, with both under-employment and alarming unemployment rates, he is still cautiously optimistic about the future.
”Palestinians are at the very lowest point and things will either continue as they are or get better. There always has to be hope, because the potential is incredible,” he explains.
Mallek sees rays of hope through the programmes in which he is involved, where young people of different faiths find each other, where people pray together and where a vast majority want lasting peace and justice for all.
”I believe in empowering the youth to realize what needs to happen to effectively end the occupation, which is to ensure equal rights for all people in the Holy Land. Quality of life for Palestinians is much more important than the relocation of the US embassy”, he explains.
But nothing comes easy and there is a lot of work to be done to move things in the right direction. The potential is there, but there are strong extremist forces working against peace because “peace will disenfranchise the fanatics”, according to Mallek.
Still, hope prevails and religious leaders are well positioned to prevent and encounter all kinds of hate speech and fanaticism, and to promote equal rights globally. That is what the Plan of Action, discussed in Vienna recently, is all about and this is what drives Raanan Mallek.
Seek #JusticeandPeace in the Holy Land
Implementation Meeting for the Plan of Action for Religious Leaders and Actors to Prevent Incitement to Violence that Could Lead to Atrocity Crimes- Feb 13-15, 2018
We have spent the past three days here in Vienna, Austria looking at ways to implement the Plan of Action for Religious Leaders and Actors to Prevent Incitement to Violence that Could Lead to Atrocity Crimes.
The most fascinating part by far were the different people represented at the meeting. I fondly remember how a Shiite colleague approached me the first day, gave me a big hug, explained that he has heard of my work in interreligious dialogue and then said that he would be honored for me to join a working group on interreligious covenant theology.
Another memory which will stick with me was meeting Ambassador Adama Dieng, Under Secretary-General and UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide. He asked me what I thought were concrete steps that could be taken and I explained my work with Hands of Peace. He then requested that I email him details about the program which I promptly did.
One that is focused on helping all people of the Land to civilly discuss how to improve our lives; a discussion that allows for antagonism to grow and become constructive conflict ('adeb el ikhtilaf', Arabic for "ethics of disagreement" and 'machloket leshem shamayim', Hebrew for "disagreement for the sake of Heaven"). Seeing and hearing the other allows for us to resonate so that the conversation becomes productive action as we integrate ways to better each other's lot.
Join us next week, Tue., Oct. 3rd at 7pm for Tuesdays at Tantur with the renowned demographer Professor Sergio DellaPergola
Join us next Tuesday, Sept. 26th for Tuesdays at Tantur when Amirit Rosen and I will present the first part in the series of Interreligious Studies 101
Rabbi Ron Kronish presented at Tuesdays at Tantur on his new book: The Other Peace Process- Interreligious Dialogue, A View from Jerusalem
On Monday, June 12th, 2017, four leading experts in interreligious dialogue gathered at the American Jewish Committee to discuss what religions can learn from each other. These distinguished scholars from different traditions shared how their experience of learning from each other, with all the complexities therein, has enriched their spiritual lives and deepened their faith. The speakers included: Didi Sudesh, the European Director of the Brahma Kumaris; Rabbi Dr. David Rosen, the international director of interreligious affairs of the American Jewish Committee; Fr. Dr. David Neuhaus, Patriarchal Vicar for Hebrew speaking Catholics in Jerusalem; and Sheikh Awad, representing the Ahmadiyya community. The evening was moderated by Peta Jones Pellach, education director of the Elijah Interfaith Institute.
Fr. David Neuhaus spoke about how his first friend in Jerusalem was a Muslim and that he had the blessing to go with him and Rabbi David Rosen to visit Pope John Paul II in 1985. Fr. Neuhaus spoke of the touching connection he has seen develop among Jews driven by their faith observance of commandments to stand in prophetic solidarity with asylum seekers in Israel.
Rabbi David Rosen spoke about how he had a theological epiphany which forced him to confront the question of what the existence of other religions means for Judaism. He went from a place believing that everyone else is in varying degrees of darkness to a place of being able to see the light in the other. If we preach the omnipresent and omniscient nature of the Eternal Creator of All and He can relate to us in diverse ways, is it not logical that we can relate to Him in different ways? Logically, other religions are expressions of the Eternal encountering individual human beings created in the Divine Image. Amidst the challenges of our modern time, there has never before been more interreligious dialogue as there is today.
Didi Sudesh spoke about how in education, you teach yourself how to move from a place of fear in asking questions to a place of being in awe that the question can be asked. There is a spiritual meeting space where we can all experience a relationship with the Supreme Soul. This relationship will allow us to forgive ourselves and others.
A New Way of Thinking
You can neither have hope nor peace without justice. Who is justice for? Is it just for Jews or for all? If Palestinians don’t have justice, there can’t be hope for them, or for anyone else in this land. All their hopelessness – not just 50 years back, but 70 years back – compels us to reform our idea of what it means to live here. We cannot resolve the problem in the same condition as it was created. The belief that two peoples on the same land can be divided has caused 70 years of strife, struggle and occupation. To emerge from that, we need to create a new way of thinking, where we can live together in one land recognized as both Israel and Palestine. I hope that in ten years time, a Federal Republic of the Holy Land comprised of the States of Israel and Palestine on the same land becomes a reality. A republic with two different parliaments held together by a senate representing both Palestine and Israel equally.
Telling the Palestinians that they can have only 22 percent of the territory will cause more struggle, more injustice, more resentment and continued lack of peace. Instead, we must be part of a process with the Palestinian people where we address historical grievances and wrongdoings in an authentic manner which incorporates the traditional principles of Sulha and Conflict Transformation. We have to find a new way to solve the problem which teaches us how to live together.
The current situation is not sustainable and it is inevitable that change will take place. But it requires a change in rhetoric and a new model where conflict is transformed into opportunity. Conflict transformation begins on the ground among the masses and works its way up. Education is crucial in order to effectively change mindsets and reach a critical mass of support for nonviolent change. We are not there yet and we will encounter setbacks along the way. But I am convinced that our peoples can be brought together and create a brighter future for all. Better times will come!