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.
*Claus Grue is communication consultant for the World Council of Churches.