WASHINGTON - Congressman Keith Ellison is going to Norway.
The Minneapolis Democrat, who made history as the first Muslim in Congress as well as its first black representative from Minnesota, said Wednesday that he is going "to study peace and justice issues" in the homeland of the state's Scandinavian ancestors.
"This is Norway," he said, "a country that has played a large role in international peace, even though it's only got a population of about 5 million."
Among the nation's major contributions to peace, he said, is its sponsorship of the Nobel Peace Prize, which was recently awarded to former Vice President Al Gore for his work on climate change awareness.
The trip, which comes at the behest of Augsburg College in Minneapolis and the Norwegian government, will bring Ellison into contact with public officials and nongovernment organizations.
He will be there from Jan. 6-11, during the congressional holiday recess. It will be the freshman House member's fifth official trip abroad, having traveled twice to Israel, once to Iraq and once to the Persian Gulf states.
The trip underscores Ellison's desire to play a role in the international peace movement, which is often identified with opposition to the U.S.-led war in Iraq, a centerpiece of his 2006 campaign for Congress.
It will also continue the state's long-standing ties to Norway, whose famous Minnesota sons include former Vice President Walter Mondale, the nation's honorary consul general in Minneapolis, and Ellison's predecessor in Congress, Martin Olav Sabo.