SHAFAQNA– The Austrian capital –Vienna- is hosting a photo gallery of two different pilgrimage routes, images from march of Arbaeen in Iraq to a march on St. James Cathedral in Spain.
25 photos from Imam Hussain’s (AS) march of Arbaeen and 25 photos from Christian march have been put on display at this exhibition which is held in coordination between Iranian Cultural Attaché and the St. Jacob’s Way Center in Vienna that is linked with the office of the Pope’s representative in Austria.
Annually, millions of mostly Shia Muslims and Imam Hussain’s (AS) devotees from various nationalities walk hundreds of kilometers on foot to the holy city of Karbala to show their devotion to the master of martyrs.
Similarly, more than 300,000 Catholic Christians from across Europe and some 5,000 from Austria alone, go on a pilgrimage to the shrine of St. James in the resort city of Santiago de Compostela in northwest of Spain.
They walk on foot, on a trip that has same spiritual meaning for the faithful Christians. Some of them walk the entire long way on foot and some only walk the last 100 kilometers to Santiago de Compostela.
In an effort for cultural exchange and understanding spiritual similarities in Iran and Austria, the exhibition “2 pilgrimage routes for peace” is now underway in a famous gallery adjacent to St. Stephan’s Cathedral in Vienna. The exhibition will continue one week at this gallery and for the entire month of December will be on at Ibn Sina Hall, at the center of Iran’s Cultural Attaché in Vienna.
One of the guests at the inauguration event was Lisa Huber, the president of Theological Institute Que Vadis, who said their center helps Christian faithful to walk on foot on St. James Cathedral to know God and themselves better. That would help them reach internal peace and love their fellow human beings. Ms. Huber appreciated Islamic Republic’s Cultural Attaché efforts for staging this exhibition. She expressed hope that this exhibition would turn into a cultural exchange point which would finally lead to cooperation for a lasting global peace.
Iran’s Cultural Attaché, Mehrdad Agahi, for his turn said: The message of all Divine prophets is spirituality which means paying attention to another world other than this earthly one, paying attention to God which rises from self-esteem and seeing oneself as a human being. According to Agahi, human beings should come to peace with themselves in the first place and that would bring them to peace with God, as Jesus Christ said “If you know yourself, you will know your God”. If a man knows himself, he will not commit cruelty or injustice against others. Ashura event which saw the brutal killing of Imam Hussain (AS) showed human beings were still stuck in ignorance, as they did injustice to themselves and one of the best human beings on earth.
Hujjat al-Islam Dr. Mohammed Waldman, who is a prominent Austrian Shia figure, was another guest at this event who described the march of Arbaeen as a rally of people who love a man who loved God and died 13 centuries ago.
He said: Imam Hussain (AS) rose up against injustice and cruelty, he sacrificed everything he had, his children to bring peace and love to the society. We are bound to attend these marches in a bid to renew our commitment with Imam Hussain (AS) and his goals as well as reaching internal peace and transfer it to people around us.
Stephan Igner, who heads the St. Jacob Way Center, said St. James’ Cathedral is one of the most famous pilgrimage sites in Europe after St. Peter’s Cathedral in Rome and around 320,000 pilgrims visited this site in 2018. St. James is known to be one of Jesus Christ’s apostles and one of the first people who believed in his mission and is said to be the guardian saint of Spain.
According to Igner, the peak of this event is July 25, which is the anniversary of July 25, 818 AD, when remains of St. James were brought from the holy city of Jerusalem al-Quds to Spain and they were buried in Santiago de Compostela. Igner further explained that people learn to make friendship and help each other through this path. They offer foods and drinks to each other, treat wounds on each other’s feet and gift peace and calm to others. This pilgrimage opens man’s senses and pilgrims feel they see, hear, and feel anew.
The Spanish city of Santiago de Compostela is the sister city of Mashhad in Iran.
According to Agahi, several religious and academic centers in Iran have voiced their readiness to host this exhibition in Iran.
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