Ebola-Free Sierra Leone Muslims Make First Hajj

FREETOWN – Two years after Ebola outbreak in 2014, the first group of Sierra Leone Muslims will fly to Makkah on Tuesday, September 6, to make the life-time journey of hajj.

“As a nation we have a big responsibility because Sierra Leone is a leader in religious tolerance,” President Ernest Bai Koroma said as he bid farewell to the first group of pilgrims, Anadolu Agency reported.

“I encourage you, the pilgrims, to be messengers of peace during and after the Hajj pilgrimage,” Koroma added.

Koroma, who is Christian, saw off 800 Muslim citizens making the journey to Makkah for this year’s Hajj.

He added that the determination of Sierra Leonean pilgrims to make Hajj, after brief two-year pause by Saudi officials,  indicates that Islam is a religion of peace and brotherhood.

Chairman of the Sierra Leone Hajj Committee Alhaji Minkailu Mansaray, said Koroma received clearance from the Saudi monarchy to allow Muslims from the country to travel.

Travelling to Makkah, he said 18 buses were already lined up to ferry pilgrims to Lungi International Airport. He added that a medical team would be part of the delegation.

Muslims from around the world pour to Makkah every year to e perform hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam.

Hajj consists of several ceremonies, which are meant to symbolize the essential concepts of the Islamic faith, and to commemorate the trials of Prophet Abraham and his family.

Every able-bodied adult Muslim who can financially afford the trip must perform hajj at least once in a lifetime.

During the past two years, Muslims in Ebola-hit countries have been barred from hajj, as part of health measures announced by Saudi Arabia.

A Sierra Leonean Muslim scholar, Alhajie Sallieu, said the pilgrimage is obligatory for all Muslims once in their lifetime but on two conditions: “A Muslim must be physically and financially strong in other to fulfill this obligation.”