WASHINGTON — As leaders and diplomats from a host of countries gathered in Annapolis, Md. this week for a summit discussing the Middle East’s rocky journey toward peace, Sister Cities International released a new report that highlights steps U.S. communities are taking to build peace with the Muslim world. “Formal summits like the one today in Annapolis are important, but more direct citizen outreach is also needed for peace,” said Patrick Madden, executive director of Sister Cities International. “Sister city programs play a vital role in helping communities build trust, develop long-term relationships, build economic ties and see beyond stereotypes.”
With nearly 90 examples of model sister city programs between U.S. and predominantly-Muslim communities, the report provides a look at the grassroots activities being conducted by ordinary citizens to build peace. The report is available for free at www.sister-cities.org/ipi. Profiled in the report are sister cities like Baltimore, Md. and Luxor, Egypt, which organized a medical exchange that brought doctors and nurses to the renowned Valley of the Kings to train Egyptian health professionals. Sister cities Chicago , Ill. and Amman, Jordan held an economic development summit in October 2007 to stimulate business relationships and networking. The report also explores the growing trend of trilateral sister city relationships. It shows dramatically different methods communities are using to build peace. Gainesville, Fla. has a trilateral sister city relationship linking itself with Qalqilya, Palestinian Authority and Kfar Saba, Israel that explored good governance. Their projects encourage all three communities to implement exemplary city management practices. While rarely delving into politics, organizers believe they are fostering peaceful relationships. Since 1991, Burlington, Vt. has had a sister city relationship with Arad, Israel and Bethlehem, Palestinian Authority that is focused around stimulating reconciliatory dialogue. They have brought basketball coaches from Israel and the Palestinian Authority to the University of Vermont, hosted “Jerusalem Women Speak” featuring Christian, Muslim, and Jewish women, and sent youth from all three communities to the Seeds of Peace camp. “The report offers many new ideas for citizen exchanges, and highlights some of the most innovative work within the sister city movement,” said Madden. Sister Cities International’s Islamic Partnership Initiative aims to develop and energize sister city relationships between U.S. communities and communities in predominantly-Islamic countries and to breakdown stereotypes between the Western and Muslim worlds. In the five years since its launch, the Islamic Partnership Initiative has produced a 33% increase in U.S. communities partnering with the Middle East, an 18% increase in partnerships with Africa, and a 3% increase in Eurasian sister city relationships. A list of cities currently seeking sister cities is available online at www.sister-cities.org under Cities Seeking Cities. To get involved with the Islamic Partnership Initiative, contact Jenny Oliver at 202… , ext. 8638, firstname.lastname@example.org. The report was partially funded by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Sister Cities International (www.sister-cities.org) is a citizen diplomacy network connecting 134 countries that is focused on creating and strengthening partnerships between the U.S. and communities abroad. Begun in 1956 after a White House summit where U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower called for people-to-people exchanges, sister city partnerships are tailored to local interests and increase global cooperation at the grassroots level. Sister Cities International promotes peace through mutual respect, understanding and cooperation by focusing on sustainable and economic development, youth and education, arts and culture, and humanitarian assistance programs.