Our New Sister City: Najaf
On Friday, the Council decided to establish a sister city relationship with Najaf, Iraq, our first sister city in the Middle East. This is something I've been working on for the past few months, and I'm happy to see it come to fruition.
There are many good reasons to take this step. Here are just a few.
We have engaged and enthusiastic partners in a group called the Iraq and American Reconciliation Project (IARP). This nonprofit organization consists of retired teachers, University faculty, and other professionals, and has been independently functioning for two years. It's already doing much of what would be expected from a sister city relationship, including academic, educational, business and cultural exchanges.
Najaf’s City Council has already indicated their interest in formalizing this ongoing relationship. A group of people from Najaf will be visiting Minneapolis this September.
It won't increase any costs to the City. In fact, we anticipate that this relationship could bring more revenue to the City, by partnering with the Sister Cities International (SCI) Muslim World Partnership Initiative. This could help us receive grants from SCI that would not be available to us otherwise.
There's already a relationship between the U of M and Kufa University in Najaf, offering some interesting bioscience opportunities. Given Najaf’s prominence in the Muslim world, this could be a major inroad to the Mideast for large and small bioscience businesses in Minneapolis.
Lastly, I think it's important to take this step because we (as US citizens) have a special responsibility to the people of Iraq. Our tax dollars paid for the war that has resulted in the deaths of at least one hundred thousand Iraqis, and perhaps as many as one million. Urban populations in this country, including Minneapolis, were the reserve of anti-war sentiment during the rush to war, and building a positive, constructive relationship between urban dwellers here and urban dwellers there could do quite lot to put our overall national interactions on a healthier path.
I'm thankful to CM Hodges for all of her work, with me, on making this happen.