DAKAR, Senegal (AA) – Sierra Leone’s president bade farewell to the first group of Muslims to make the Hajj pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia in two years after Ebola hit the African country in 2014.
Ernest Bai Koroma saw off 800 Muslim citizens making the journey to Mecca for this year’s Hajj on Monday.
Sierra Leone plus neighboring Guinea and Liberia were banned from sending Hajj pilgrims during the peak of the Ebola outbreak in 2014.
President Koroma, who is a Christian, said the determination of Sierra Leonean pilgrims to make Hajj after two years indicates that Islam is a religion of peace and brotherhood, despite a minority using terrorism to give the faith a bad image.
“As a nation we have a big responsibility because Sierra Leone is a leader in religious tolerance. I encourage you, the pilgrims, to be messengers of peace during and after the Hajj pilgrimage,” Koroma added.
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.
He said 18 buses were already lined up to ferry pilgrims to Lungi International Airport and that a medical team would be part of the delegation to Mecca.
A Sierra Leonean Muslim scholar, Alhajie Sallieu, said Hajj was the fifth pillar of Islam. It takes place in the month of Dhul Hijjah which is the twelfth month of the Islamic calendar.
He 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.”
The pilgrims will depart Sierra Leone later today.
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