HE walked 92kilometres in blistering 42C heat on a special pilgrim trail between two Iraqi cities.

However, 12 months on that same journey just isn’t possible this year for Ameed Versace. Instead he is bringing his own equivalent of the walk to Scots today to raise awareness and bring people and communities together.

There is no doubting the historic and personal importance of the pilgrim walk between Najaf to Karbala for Mr Versace, who is part of the Scottish Ahlul Bayt Society, a faith group working to meet the needs of the Scottish Shia Muslim community and works in partnership across the country on cultural, social and religious projects.

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Mr Versace said: “The Arbaeen walk dates back to about 680. Blessed Imam Hussain walked on it to support an oppressed people that sought his help. He was the grandson of the prophet Muhammad and was very active in upholding strong moral and ethical standards for the people at that time. Sadly he was stopped and met with an untimely death. He became a martyr for Islam and all that is good in humankind.

"Fourteen centuries later we still replicate that journey between city of Najaf to the city of Karbala in modern day Iraq. Up to 20 million people gather at this time from all over the world to pay their respect and mourn Imam Hussain' s passing.

"I did the walk last year in just over 18 hours between the two cities in 42C. It was a massive challenge but my resolve was strong.”

Many of the pilgrims take their time with the walk and spread it over three to five days and stay in tents to rest and prepare for the next leg of their journey, but Mr Versace did it in one go.

“I arrived in the middle of the night and had walked the 92km myself,” said Mr Versace. “I did have friends waiting for me who had been supporting me, but by the time I arrived they were fast asleep.”

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For Mr Versace not being able to take part in the Iraq walk this year hasn’t stopped him and his fellow society members want to mark it in some way.

He added: “We thought about what we could do and rather than just let it pass we decided to do what we could right here in Scotland. So I am setting off on foot again to walk from Paisley to Glasgow, around 20 miles, but it won’t be a straight route.

“I will be stopping off along the way to be welcomed, at a social distance, at a number of the community groups and projects we work with. We are also making this a multi-faith walk and I will be starting at Paisley Abbey and then on to St Mirin’s RC Cathedral in Paisley, taking in St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral in Glasgow’s West End and also stopping at both St Andrew’s RC Cathedral in Clyde Street and Glasgow Cathedral in High Street.”

During the walk he will be passing Ibrox stadium where Rangers Charity Foundation chiefs will greet him. He has also been sent a message of support from Celtic FC as well.

Mr Versace added: “The Scottish walk for peace, harmony and inclusion of all our communities is a first for Scotland. We as proud Scots wanted to share it here and bring awareness of Imam Hussain’s amazing qualities yet ultimate sacrifice.

It is an honour to be embarking on this solitary walk and bringing together so many of our first responders, civic and business leaders along with charity care providers.”

The society had also learned about The Herald’s plans to create memorial garden for Scotland’s coronavirus victims which has claimed the lives of people from all faiths and none.

Mr Versace added: “The Herald’s proposal regarding the covid memorial, is something we wholeheartedly support.”

Scottish Walk for Peace stop off points

  • Paisley Abbey
  • Cenotaph
  • St Mirin Cathedral
  • Lourdes Secondary, Jesuit monastery nearby
  • Police Scotland, Helen Street, Govan
  • Prince & Princess of Wales Hospice, Bellahouston Park
  • Rangers Charity Foundation at Ibrox
  • Fire Service Govan
  • Glasgow caring city HQ
  • St Mary's Cathedral, west end
  • Sikh temple on Berkeley Street
  • Shia Mosque Ashley Street
  • Glasgow Blood Donor centre
  • Trades House and Merchants House, Merchant City
  • George Square Cenotaph
  • St Andrew's Cathedral, Clyde Street
  • Glasgow Cathedral High Street
  • Glasgow interfaith and Scottish Interfaith offices, Springburn