Reiff Center for Human Rights and Conflict Resolution hosts delegates from Newport News’ Sister City.
Just like how universities have sister institutions, Newport News has sister cities. Amongst them is a mid-sized city from Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany, called Greifswald.
Greifswald is known for the University of Greifswald as well as being home to the world’s third-largest producer of Yachts, HanseYachts.
This past Thursday, Oct. 5, the Reiff Center for Human Rights and Conflict Resolution held a panel for the visitors to field questions from members of the host groups as well as students and members of the Newport News community itself.
Representatives from Greifswald came to Newport News in coordination with the Sister Cities of Newport News and the Tidewater German American Society.
Amongst the visitors was the “Oberbürgermeister”, or Lord Mayor, of Greifswald, Dr. Stefan Fassbinder.
The Reiff Center for Human Rights and Conflict Resolution held a panel for the visitors to field questions from members of the host groups as well as students and members of the Newport News community itself.
The main topic of discussion was Germany’s acceptance of refugees and mass immigration under the leadership of Angela Merkel. Greifswald itself took in roughly 1,100 asylum seekers.
The population of Greifswald sits at around 57,000 residents.
Of the new immigrant population, approximately 200 are children. Fassbinder also stated that around two-thirds of the asylum seekers were male, and a majority of that are in their twenties.
Fassbinder repeatedly assured the crowd that the city was working to assimilate the immigrants who come from the Middle East and Africa into the German, Christian city.
Another recurring theme in the questions volleyed by the audience regarded German and U.S. foreign policy regarding Russia.
The general sentiment of the panel seemed to be that communication was key in maintaining peaceful relationships with the large nation to the East.
Two of the five panelists reminded the crowd that a large portion of each of their lives was spent under Russian influence in the days of East Germany and the U.S.S.R. In a way, they described, Germans from former East Germany states feel partly Russian.
Other questions were fielded on the topic of German democracy and their many different political parties. Unlike in the U.S., German elections have more than two main political parties and local elections can leave the winning party with only 5% of the overall vote due to the saturation of candidates.
After the question and answer portion of the night, a reception was held for the attendees where the conversation was slightly less formal.
Sister Cities of Newport News hosts representatives from its sister cities as well as sends representatives abroad to educate others about the Newport News community.
Visit sistercities-nn.com if you would like to get involved.