COLOMBO: The primary group of Sri Lankans departed for Hajj on Tuesday regardless of earlier plans to forgo the pilgrimage because the nation confronts its worst-ever financial disaster.
Final month, Sri Lanka’s umbrella affiliation of pilgrimage organizers mentioned that its members would droop operations as a result of the price of sending worshippers to Makkah can be too excessive for the nation to bear.
The island nation is struggling to take care of the worst monetary downturn since independence in 1948 and has already defaulted on overseas debt repayments.
However earlier in June, the federal government introduced Muslims can be allowed to carry out Hajj this 12 months supplied they pay their journey prices in overseas foreign money.
“We’re present process an enormous financial disaster, nonetheless we need to respect the values and sentiments of the Muslims, subsequently we allowed them to go even beneath making an attempt circumstances,” Spiritual Affairs Minister Vidura Wickremanayake informed Arab Information.
“We’re assured that their prayers will go a good distance in getting out of this disaster.”
One in all Islam’s 5 pillars of religion, the Hajj was restricted over pandemic fears to only 1,000 folks residing in Saudi Arabia in 2020. The Kingdom restricted the pilgrimage to 60,000 home individuals in 2021, in contrast with the pre-pandemic 2.5 million.
This 12 months, after lifting most of its coronavirus curbs, Saudi Arabia will welcome 1 million home and overseas pilgrims.
Sri Lanka, the place Muslims make up virtually 10 p.c of the nation’s predominantly Buddhist inhabitants of twenty-two million, has been allotted a quota of 1,585 pilgrims to carry out Hajj. However with inflation now operating at 40 p.c, the associated fee is just too excessive for a lot of to bear and solely about 960 are anticipated to journey.
The pilgrimage this 12 months prices 5 instances greater than in 2019, in response to Ibrahim Sahib Ansar, who oversees Hajj logistics on the Ministry of Spiritual Affairs.
“Though the quota is given, the price of the pilgrimage this 12 months has multiplied 5 instances greater than the associated fee two years in the past, which was solely 500,000 Sri Lankan rupees ($1,387),” he informed Arab Information.
Ansar added that a lot of the pilgrims from Sri Lanka this 12 months are seniors, who concern that subsequent time they won’t meet the official 65-year age restrict.
“I used to be ready for this chance for the previous two years,” mentioned Farzan Huzair, who was among the many 50 pilgrims departing from Colombo on Tuesday. ”I used to be additionally afraid that I gained’t have the ability to carry out Hajj after age 65.”
Huzair informed Arab Information that he considered Hajj as “a golden alternative,” including: “I collected the cash over time to meet my lifelong dream.”
Rizmi Reyal, who heads the Sri Lanka Hajj Journey Operators Affiliation, mentioned that he might be praying for his nation.
“All reward is because of Allah for the chance given for the Lankan pilgrims to carry out Hajj this 12 months,” he mentioned.
“I’m going for this 12 months’s Hajj with my spouse, solely to hope for my nation, which is dealing with a extreme financial disaster.”