Timbuktu Renaissance: Culture at the Heart of Peace-building and Socio-economic Development

Timbuktu. To many, the name evokes a place of mythic remoteness. To others, it connotes an ancient crossroads of trade, exotic goods and culture. And still others know it as the sacred intellectual capital of the Muslim world, synonymous with universities, debate and religious tolerance. Tragically, Timbuktu most recently conjures memories of the 2012 occupation when armed groups, including al Qaeda-linked jihadists, committed grave human rights abuses, damaged mausoleums and shrines, torched manuscripts and banned music, the very lifeblood of Mali. Thanks to the resilience and ingenuity of the local population, and an international military intervention supported by the U.N. and led by the French, the extremist occupation failed.

A UNESCO World Heritage site, Timbuktu symbolizes both the challenges and the potential of Africa, themes that have drawn 50 heads of state to Washington for the first U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit. The renaissance of Timbuktu as a beacon of tolerance, wisdom and innovation – all signature characteristics of its Golden Age – has immeasurable symbolic power in the Sahel and Middle East and North Africa (MENA) regions, where sectarianism and brutal intolerance are on the rise.

The Timbuktu Renaissance (TR) Initiative aims to leverage Mali’s and, particularly, Timbuktu’s heritage and living culture to promote…

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