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    A voice for peace from Down Under

    A voice for peace from Down Under

    Frederick Rainger Palestine Israel Ecumenical Network Australia. Photo WCC/Claus Grue

    10 July 2017

    *By Claus Grue

    As a retired person in his late 60s, Frederick “Fred” Rainger often asks himself: ”what can I stop doing?” His days are filled with engagements in community activities and it hasn’t gotten any less busy since he became more involved in the Palestine Israel Ecumenical Network (PIEN), a network of Australian Christians seeking lasting peace for the people of Palestine and Israel.
    The last three or four years his focus on that issue has “sharpened”, as he puts it, and he now serves in the committee of PIEN, which meets on a monthly basis.
    “Our main mission is to raise awareness among church people in Australia and equip them to promote peace and reconciliation in Palestine and Israel”, Rainger explains.
    Educating both churches and the wider Australian public on human rights issues, as well as influencing politicians and advancing public debates, are important parts of PIEN’s work.   
    Today, the network counts more than 500 people from denominations across Australia, as well as Australian Christian aid and development agencies working in Palestine and Israel. It was established in 2006 by church leaders who saw a particular role for Christians to advocate from a faith perspective about Palestinian human rights.
    “We are following Christ’s vision for universal reconciliation, and inspired by the Kairos Palestine document”, Rainger clarifies.

    Strong commitment

    His commitment to a just peace in the Holy Land increased a few years ago when he and his wife Helen, who is president of PIEN, offered hospitality to a Palestinian woman on an advocacy tour in Australia.
    “The stories she shared really touched me and led me to analyse the situation more carefully and put it into a historical perspective. I am seriously troubled by how the treatment of Jews in Germany in the 1930s and 40s and in Russia in the late 19th century now echoes the treatment of the Palestinians. The Israeli government either won’t hear or doesn’t want to know”, Rainger concludes.
    To further advance his point he urges the Israelis to reflect on the Old Testament where texts often are a call from people of God to the Israelites to return to the God of the Jewish people:
    “Is the present Israeli government reflecting on that? One of the threads in the Old Testament was that the Israelis had wandered away and have been called. So, the question is: Have they wandered away and should they find a more truthful path to follow?”

    International efforts
    His background as a deputy principal in secondary school and a consultant in training, mentoring and leadership for the New South Wales Department of Education in Australia has equipped him well to advance the cause of the Palestinian people. At the core of it all lies his Christian faith and commitment to human rights.
    The current situation in Israel-Palestine does not offer much hope, he admits, and he finds it worrying that educated Christian Palestinians – and potential future leaders – emigrate. But on the other hand, there are several examples in history of seemingly intractable situations that have been solved.
    “It will take sincere efforts on an international level, primarily from the USA, to solve the conflict. As long as the US and other countries cuddle up to the Israeli government, they have no interest in changing things. And in addition to what we and other organizations do, it requires courage from the Israeli people to express their true feelings about the occupation. The paradox is, that in the end it will be the oppressor who gets liberated and most relieved if – and when – the conflict is solved”, Rainger concludes.
    Having returned home recently from the WCC Peace Consultations in Beit Sahour, which he attended as the PIEN representative, he is busy planning a teleconference with his network colleagues to further discuss the open letter to World Council of Churches from the National Coalition of Christian Organizations in Palestine (NCCOP).
    “It is a plea of despair, which we need to take very seriously and respond to”, he says.
    Next year he will help lead a tour for church leaders to the Holy Land organized by the National Council of Churches in Australia. Being engaged keeps him going.

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


    Read also: After strong input in Holy Land, WCC plans to refine strategy for just peace (WCC press release of 23 June 2017)

    WCC activities in solidarity with churches in the Middle East