Jeddah: Relatives of victims of the Christchurch mosque terrorist attack in New Zealand will take part in the Hajj pilgrimage next month as guests of King Salman of Saudi Arabia.

The invitation to the 200 pilgrims was announced on Wednesday by Minister of Islamic Affairs Sheikh Abdullatif Al-Asheikh.

Hosting the families during the Hajj season is part of Saudi Arabia’s efforts to “confront and defeat terrorism” in all its forms, the minister said.

The 200 pilgrims will perform Hajj as part of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques’ Guest Program for Hajj and Umrah, and the ministry will liaise with the Saudi Embassy in New Zealand to ensure it goes smoothly.

“New Zealand has been humbled by the support we have received from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia following the Christchurch terror attack on our Muslim community,” James Munro, New Zealand’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia, told Arab News.

“This includes words of support from King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the attendance at the national memorial service by the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Adel Al-Jubeir, and a generous donation of $1 million to the victims’ families by Prince Alwaleed bin Talal.

“This latest act of generosity by the king is deeply appreciated by New Zealand and will be hugely meaningful to the families of those who died, and to the survivors.”

A total of 51 people died and 49 were wounded when a 28-year-old Australian white supremacist opened fire on worshippers at Al-Noor Mosque and the Linwood Islamic Centre in Christchurch during Friday prayers on the afternoon of March 15. His trial on 51 charges of murder and 40 of attempted murder is due to begin in May 2020.

“The New Zealand government, police and media have agreed not to name the terrorist to deny him a platform, or publicity,” Munro said. “The victims will be remembered. He will not.”

Last year more that 1.75 million pilgrims from abroad performed Hajj, according to figures from the Saudi General Directorate of Passports.

The Minister of Hajj and Umrah Dr. Mohammed Salih Bentin, reiterated the Kingdom’s call to pilgrims to dedicate their time to performing Hajj rituals, and to be considerate of their fellow pilgrims.

They must focus on feeling the spirituality of the journey and distance themselves from distractions, such as sectarian or political slogans, the minister said. “The Kingdom will not tolerate conduct that disturbs Hajj rituals, and the authorities will take the necessary measures to prevent them.”
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