First shrine of Mary built in Kirkuk, Iraq

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Kirkuk, Iraq has seen significantly reduced violence since 2014 (Al Bawaba/Adam Lucente)
Christians throughout the Middle East celebrated the Assumption of Mary Monday, which celebrates her ascension to heaven, according to the Christian tradition. Known as the Virgin Mary by Christians and Our Lady Mary by Muslims, she is an important figure in Middle Eastern religious history.

One would expect festive celebrations for the holiday in-let’s say-Beirut, but Kirkuk? Maybe not. However, the first shrine to Mary was unveiled this week in the northern Iraqi city, Alsumaria News reports.

The shrine is tall and white, and was shown by Chaldean Catholics in downtown Kirkuk. “Kirkuk is a city for all Christians and all Muslims, and God willing Mary’s blessings will be blessings for us all, and blessings for peace and stability,” said Mar Louis Sako, the Chaldean Catholic patriarch of Kirkuk.

Alsumaria News says the shrine includes seven crosses, and a fountain of water, and was designed in France.

Much of Iraq remains in turmoil as the government and its allies fight Daesh (ISIS), but in Kirkuk perhaps the patriarch’s wishes for peace will come true. Violence has been dramatically reduced since Kurdish peshmerga forces took control of the city in 2014.