Karim Wasfi and Mayor Ron Nirenberg Among Speakers at Sister Cities International's 61st Annual Conference

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

​WASHINGTON, DC (July 12, 2017) – Karim Wasfi, renowned composer, cellist, and President & Founder of Peace Through Arts Inc. will be a keynote speaker at the Sister Cities International 61st Annual Conference July 14-15, 2017. Wasfi will share his experience of spreading peace through music and address this year's theme, "Global Communities for World Peace." Alongside Wasfi, Ron Nirenberg, Mayor of San Antonio, Texas, will lead a panel of mayors, city representatives, and elected officials on strengthening diplomacy at the local level. Wasfi and Nirenberg are among many compelling speakers who will address innovative leaders in policy, business, and diplomacy from around the world who are coming together to strengthen sister city relationships and promote peace and prosperity worldwide.

A native of Egypt, Karim Wasfi has more than two decades of experience in cultural diplomacy through using music, sound and arts therapy in healing, cross-cultural integration, de radicalization, prevention of tension, and counterterrorism. His current focus has been working in Mosul to fight ISIS intimidation. In 2015 during the height of ISIS occupation in Iraq, Wasfi began going out to the sights of bombings to play his cello. His approach has helped thousands of people in crises areas to find their creative and peaceful selves and overcome intimidation of terror. His work and initiatives have been covered by national and international media, and his YouTube videos have reached viral status with more than 33 million viewers. Karim's choice to fight against hate, terror, and oppression personifies the spirit of citizen diplomacy upon which Sister Cities International was founded.

Ron Nirenberg was recently elected Mayor of San Antonio, Texas—the seventh largest city in the U.S. As a city representative and the Vice Chair and Chair Elect on the Sister Cities International Board, Mayor Nirenberg embraces the importance of sister city relationships and citizen diplomacy for cities all around the country. 

"We are thrilled to host Karim Wasfi, Ron Nirenberg, and other inspiring members of society as speakers at this year's conference," said Mary D. Kane, President and CEO of Sister Cities International. "They are leaders in diplomacy and their experiences are invaluable in creating world peace through people-to-people partnerships."

SCI's 61st anniversary celebration will include an Annual Conference and Youth Leadership Summit in Virginia Beach, VA July 13-16, 2017. The celebration will bring together hundreds of the most influential global leaders in diplomacy, foreign affairs, policy, business, and innovation. Elected and municipal officials, business leaders, youth delegates, and citizen diplomats will discuss this year's theme "Global Communities for World Peace" building on President Eisenhower's initial vision of creating a more peaceful world by building global relationships.

The celebration will include a Parade of Flags through Virginia Beach, VA; a U.S.-Russia Mayors' Summit; City Welcome Reception hosted by Virginia Beach, VA on the beach; and enlightening conference sessions, keynote speeches, and the Lou Wozar Diplomatic Awards Dinner at the Doubletree Hilton Hotel. The winners of SCI's Young Artists and Authors Showcase featuring art, literature, photography, and film created by youth from around the world will also be on display throughout the conference. The celebration will not only honor the 61 years of history behind SCI, but also its promising future of sustaining and fostering world peace.

Concurrent to the conference, a Youth Leadership Summit for high school students (ages 14-18) will convene to engage the next generation of leaders and expose them to global challenges through a U.N. diplomatic simulation, various panels, a service learning project, and a taste of college life at Virginia Wesleyan College.

To learn more about the 61st Annual Conference and concurrent events, please see our media advisory. To apply for media credentials, please contact Christina Burchette at cburchette@sistercities.org.

#          #          #

About Sister Cities International

Founded as a Presidential Initiative by Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1956, Sister Cities International serves as the national membership organization for 560 individual sister cities, counties, and states across the United States with relationships in 2,300 communities in 150 countries on six continents. The sister city network unites tens of thousands of citizen diplomats and volunteers who work tirelessly to promote the organizations' mission of creating world peace and understanding through economic development, youth and education, arts and culture, and humanitarian assistance.

Facebook: SisterCitiesInternational; Twitter: @SisterCitieslnt; Instagram: @SisterCitiesInt; Website: www.sistercities.org