About 325 Liberian Muslims have departed the country for the Islamic Holy City of Mecca, Saudi Arabia for this year's Hajj Pilgrimage, aimed at fulfilling one of their greatest religious obligations.
The annual pilgrimage brings millions of Muslims from across the world to Mecca in Saudi Arabia. Hajj is observed for five days in the last month of the Islamic lunar calendar, and is one of the five pillars of Islam.
Varney Sirleaf, Minister of Internal Affairs and a member of the steering committee of this year's Hajj, said the Liberian delegation departed the country on Thursday, August 1, 2019 via the Roberts International Airport (RIA) in Margibi County.
"The departure for the Hajj means a lot to the Muslim community, especially sending 325 people from Liberia, who will pray for the country, its leadership's prosperity, peace and reconciliation, [as well as for] themselves and their families," Mr. Sirleaf said.
He said that before the Muslims could leave the country, President George Weah paid the transportation and other facilities for 100 of them, while private citizens contributed to the remaining 225 others.
Sirleaf said there are prospects that the number of Liberian Muslims for the Hajj pilgrimage will increase in the coming years.
"It will interest anyone to note that with this year's pilgrims, there are more women as compared to previous years," he said, adding that this is the first time in recent years for Liberia to send over 300 pilgrims.
Mr. Sirleaf said members of the delegation, especially those supported by President Weah through the United Arabia Emirates (UAE), were selected from the various counties.
He added, "Some of the people, who were called to make the pilgrimage did not have passports, and it was late for them to obtain passport from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs."
He said when the Muslims return, they pray for the country and for President Weah, as well as the country's peace.
The steering committee this year arranged for a charter flight to take the delegation from Monrovia to Medina. They are expected to return on August 27.
Mr. Sirleaf said the chartered flight is to reduce the 24-hours delay in Casablanca, Morocco, while in transit.
"This is a place you find thousands of Muslims transiting for Mecca, but because we don't want the Liberian delegation to encounter such delay, the government decided to charter a flight to make the travel easy and comfortable," he said.
Mr. Sirleaf said before the Pilgrims could depart, the committee hosted a two-day workshop educating the Liberian delegation on the pictorial of the Mosque in Mecca and its many gates so that no member of the Liberian delegation would go missing due to the overcrowded environment during the Hajj.
The Hajj ritual is traced back to the time of the Prophet Abraham by Muslims. It is a "religious obligation" to embark on Hajj at least once in a lifetime of every Muslim, who can afford the cost associated with the trip.