The Christian Science Monitor

Why Shiite pilgrimage to Karbala had special meaning this year

A young participant stands at a tea stop. Perhaps the largest annual religious event in the world, the weeklong march to Karbala, Iraq, attracts an estimated 13.8 million Shiites from Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. Source: Scott Peterson/The Christian Science Monitor/Getty Images

For Iraq, guaranteeing the safety of millions of Shiite faithful on their annual ​pilgrimage to the shrine of a revered saint in Karbala has always been a monumental challenge.

The march, the largest annual religious pilgrimage on earth, ​is in defiance of Iraq’s chronic insecurity and the frequent attempts by Sunni militants – including, recently, Islamic State (ISIS) fighters – to derail this event with violence.

​This year, the pilgrimage ​to the shrine of Imam Hussein ​held special resonance, as ISIS in Iraq has been all but defeated in recent months by Iraqi security forces – supported by Iran-backed

Violence no deterrentBigger than the hajjUnified by threat

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