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Shiite Pilgrims’ Trek To Iraq’s Karbala

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Shiite Pilgrims’ Trek To Iraq’s Karbala

Millions of Shiite Muslims from around the world are making their way this week to their sect’s holy shrines in the Iraqi city of Karbala, a pilgrimage that is as much about community as it is about religion.

The shrines are of two revered Shiite imams: Hussein, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, and his half-brother Abbas.

The annual commemoration, called Arbaeen, draws more pilgrims each year — according to Iraqi figures — than the hajj in Saudi Arabia, a pilgrimage required once in a lifetime of every Muslim who can afford it and is physically able to make it.

Pilgrims stream toward Karbala on foot from the cities of Najaf, 70 kilometers (45 miles) away, Baghdad, 90 kilometers (55 miles) to the north, and other places farther afield, resting along the way in tents lined with foam mattresses and fleece blankets.

“Our fathers and our grandfathers walked to Karbala, and God willing, our children will, too,” said Karrad Karim, a 24-year-old pilgrim journeying with four friends from Baghdad.

They brought with them large flags bearing devotional sayings to the Shiite saints, but little in the way of supplies for the four-day journey.

That’s because along the roads, stalls set up by charities, mosques, and devotional groups see to it that no traveler goes hungry.

Cooks prepare vast amounts of stewed lamb, grilled fish, fresh bread, and rice for the pilgrims, refusing payment for the meals.

The pilgrimage, known in Arabic as the Ziara, marks the 40th day of mourning of the anniversary of Hussein’s 7th century death at the hands of the Muslim Umayyad forces in the Battle of Karbala, during the tumultuous first century of Islam’s history.

Hussein was seen by his followers as the rightful heir of the prophet’s legacy.

When he refused to pledge allegiance to the Umayyad caliphate, he was killed in the battle, cementing the schism between Sunni and Shiite Islam.

Hussein’s half-brother Abbas was also killed in the battle.

Modern depictions of Hussein, stitched on banners displayed along the pilgrimage, show him with blood on his brow and bearing a Christ-like countenance.

But the pilgrims’ mood is not all somber. Spirits are high as they approach Karbala, and improve further upon arrival, with generous helpings of dates and tea.

“This is a walk to heaven,” said Alaa Dadi, 45, who was making his way with his wife and three children.

Sunnis outnumber Shiites by a wide margin among the world’s estimated 1.5 billion Muslims, and Shiite rituals are far less known.

The hajj is considered one of the five pillars of Islam, and an obligation for all Muslims — Sunni and Shiite.

The Ziara is voluntary and holds little significance in Sunni tradition.

In recent years, the Iraqi government says Karbala received 10-20 million visitors during the event, with many Shiite pilgrims coming from Iraq; no figures have yet been released for 2018.

This year’s pilgrimage is the first since Iraq’s government declared victory over the Islamic State group in January, but the threat of insurgent attacks still lingers.

The militant group has deliberately targeted Shiites in Iraq and elsewhere to destabilize the region.

Thousands of Iraqi soldiers and special police forces have been deployed to protect the pilgrims along the routes.

Iranian religious affairs official Hussein Zulfighari said 1.7 million Iranians had already crossed into Iraq for the pilgrimage, and predicted the number could reach 2 million by the event’s climax on Tuesday.

Zulfighari, quoted in Iran’s Fars news agency, said the visitors include 50,000 Afghan Shiites living in Iran.

Source: Fox News

World News

Theresa May Survives Confidence Vote

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Theresa May Survives Confidence Vote

British Prime Minister Theresa May can rest easy after winning a vote of confidence on Wednesday night in the conservative party by 200 to 117.

After alighting from the vote last night unscathed, she is now immune from a leadership challenge for a year.

But rocky road still lies ahead as she tries to push through a vote in parliament to adopt her Brexit deal with the EU.

After the all important confidence vote on wednesday night, May was in Brussels again thursday morning to finetune the divorce deal she had struck for Britain.

May vowed, after vote results were announced on Wednesday night, that she will deliver the brexit “people voted for.”

She acknowledged the rather high number of her MPs who had voted against her. She promised to listen to, and address, their concerns.

The vote was triggered by 48 of her MPs who are angry at her Brexit policy. They say the deal betrays the demands of the 2016 referendum result.

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IATA Forecasts Airlines Will Generate $3b More In 2019

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IATA Forecasts Airlines Will Generate $3b More In 2019

The International Air Transport Association (IATA), which represents most global carriers, has forecast airlines will generate $3 billion more in total profits in 2019. The industry realized $32 billion this year. IATA says although airlines face increased taxes, they will carry more passengers next year that would boost industry profits.

Iata says airlines in North America are performing the best, but Africa remains the weakest region for aviation.

Net profits for airlines across Africa are expected to fall, for the fourth consecutive year next year by three-tenths of a percent.

Losses for carriers across Africa have widened as fuel costs have increased.

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World News

UN Urges Immediate Action On Climate Change

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UN Urges Immediate Action On Climate Change

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Wednesday at the ongoing 24th Conference of Parties (COP24) in Poland that it will “not only be immoral, but suicidal”, should the world body fail to agree on climate change action.

He challenged the more than 100 government leaders gathered in Katowice to find consensus and “finish the job”, noting the roadblocks continuing at the (COP24) climate change conference over how to implement the historic 2015 Paris Agreement.

Since Dec. 2, the conference has brought together thousands of climate action decision-makers, advocates and activists, with one key objective – to adopt global guidelines for the 197 parties of the 2015 Paris Agreement.

The 197 parties of the 2015 Paris Agreement committed to limiting global warming to less than 2 degrees Centigrade – and as close as possible to 1.5 degrees Centigrade – above pre-industrial levels.

As the conference nears its end, the UN chief acknowledged progress in the negotiations but said a lot still remains to be done.

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