A sum of 200 relatives of the victims of Christchurch massacre which occurred in New Zealand in March this year were officially invited on Tuesday, July 16 to perform Hajj pilgrimage this season, Asharq Al-Awsat reports.
“This initiative is part of the ‘Guests Program for Hajj and Umrah’. We invited those brothers and sisters to confront Islamophobic terrorism and its perpetrators,” said Sheikh Dr. Abdullatif Al-Sheikh, Minister of Islamic Affairs, Call and Guidance.
“We wanted to ease the suffering of the relatives of the Muslim victims who were killed in Christchurch Massacre that violated all religious teachings and humanitarian values,” he continued.
Earlier this year on Friday, March the 15th, 51 New Zealand Muslims were killed and injured when a white supremacist from Australia opened fire at worshippers in two mosques in the Christchurch city.
The Minister Al-Sheikh further informed that “the ministry will cover the travel expenses of the pilgrims and provide them with all possible services. Our embassy in New Zealand also works to ensure that the family members of the victims carry everything needed to perform Hajj.”
Islam in New Zealand is adhered by about 1% of the total population. Small numbers of Muslim immigrants from South Asia and eastern Europe settled in New Zealand from the early 1900s until the 1960s.
Large-scale Muslim immigration began in the 1970s with the arrival of Fiji Indians, followed in the 1990s by refugees from various war-torn countries. The first Islamic center opened in 1959 and there are now several mosques and two Islamic schools.
The Hajj is an annual Islamic pilgrimage to Makkah, the holiest city for Muslims, and a mandatory religious duty for Muslims that must be carried out at least once in their lifetime by all adult Muslims who are physically and financially capable of undertaking the journey and can support their family during their absence.
The Hajj, which is one of the Five Pillars of Islam, is a demonstration of the solidarity of the Muslim people, and their submission to God. The rites of Hajj are performed over five or six days, beginning on the 8th and ending on the 13th day of Dhu al-Hijjah, the last and 12th month of the Hijri calendar.
During Hajj, pilgrims join processions of hundreds of thousands of people, who simultaneously converge on Makkah for the week of the Hajj, and perform a series of rituals: each person walks counter-clockwise seven times around the Kaaba, runs back and forth between the hills of Safa and Marwah, drinks from the Zamzam Well, goes to the plains of Mount Arafat to stand in vigil, spends a night in the plain of Muzdalifa, and performs symbolic stoning of the devil by throwing stones at three pillars.
After the sacrifice of their animal, the Pilgrims then are required to shave their head. Then they celebrate the three-day global festival of Eid al-Adha. In 2018, the number of pilgrims to Hajj was officially reported 2,371,675 pilgrims in total.