How Hajj volunteers help pilgrims realize their lifelong dream

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A young scout helps a pilgrim at King Abdul Aziz International Airport in Jeddah. (Twitter)
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Young Saudi scouts go familiarize themselves with their designated work area in Makkah. (SPA)
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Volunteer first aiders assist an aging pilgrim in Makkah. (SPA)
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A volunteer serves water to an infirm pilgrim. (SPA)
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A Saudi volunteer serves pilgrims with tea. (SPA)
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Boy Scouts take a sick pilgrim to a field hospital. (SPA)
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A scout gives directions to a pilgrim. (SPA)
Updated 16 August 2018

How Hajj volunteers help pilgrims realize their lifelong dream

  • Volunteers are being encouraged to join the program Kun Awnan, or “Be Helpful,” to serve pilgrims
  • The program assigns volunteers to different locations based on their skills, experience and, in some cases, their place of residence

JEDDAH: Every year, Saudis — many of them young people — gather from all over the Kingdom to help their Muslim brothers and sisters fulfill their lifetime dream of visiting Makkah to perform Hajj, the fifth pillar of Islam.

With the support and the supervision of the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah, volunteers participate in all different kind of activities to ensure pilgrims’ comfort, receiving them with hospitality and generosity at the country’s ports.

All governmental and private bodies, including Scouts, join self-motivated volunteers to provide services such as traffic control, health care, guidance and support to various public sector agencies participating in the massive pilgrimage operation.

In 2017, the ministry approved the launch of the volunteering program Kun Awnan, or “Be Helpful,” to serve pilgrims. 

“This program is in line with the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 to rally one million volunteers per year,” Hani Abu Alsaud, the program’s CEO, told Arab News.

Through this program, the ministry aims to promote a culture of volunteering, while providing young people with a chance to use their expertise and skills to assist pilgrims while doing everything they can to make the experience of God’s guests smoother and more secure.

The program assigns volunteers to different locations based on their skills, experience and, in some cases, their place of residence. 

Volunteering points or camps include the holy mosques of both Makkah and Madinah, King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah, Prince Mohammad Bin Abdulaziz International Airport in Madinah and the holy sites in Makkah.

“Last year, we received more than 3,000 volunteering applications through our newly launched website and we could accept only 12 percent of the total applicants,” Abu Alsaud said.

“Most of our volunteers are college and university students from all over the country ... (who) come to participate in the pride of serving God’s guests, and every one of them will receive a certificate of participation,” he said.

Kun Awnan activities include receiving pilgrims at airports, providing translations in a wide range of languages, doing all possible to make the Hajj experience go smoothly, as well as guiding activities and ceremonies after the season is over.

Scout camp activities were also launched to serve pilgrims during this year’s Hajj season under the Saudi Arabian Scouts Association. 

More than 4,500 Saudi Scouts and Guides were deployed in the public service camps for pilgrims in Makkah and its holy sites to assist pilgrims in cooperation with the ministry.

Zaiad Qadeer, director of the scout activities at the department of education in Makkah, said: “Scouts come from several cities across Saudi Arabia and are trained to speak multiple languages. This comes as a big help for pilgrims who arrive from all over the world. 

“Our main role would be assisting pilgrims who might lose their way around the holy sites in Makkah during the Hajj performance.”

As part of their efforts to provide the best possible services, six scout camps have been established in Makkah and its holy sites. 

“Scouts have been active members of the volunteering activities for years, deployed in almost all locations and working side by side with other teams and agencies to provide assistance to pilgrims and receive them with hospitality and generosity,” Qadeer explained. 

“We also help the Ministry of Health to treat sick pilgrims, complementing a number of voluntary humanitarian services for pilgrims.”

The General Directorate of Civil Defense plays a major role in volunteer work in the Kingdom. 

Operations General Hamoud bin Suleiman Al-Faraj told local media that the civil defense hoped to increase volunteer work under its umbrella, and had witnessed a large increase in the number of volunteers participating in the Hajj within a year — 1,485 volunteers this year compared with 816 volunteers in 2017.

Organization of Islamic Cooperation to adopt Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam

Updated 28 February 2020

Organization of Islamic Cooperation to adopt Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam

  • OIC secretary-general notes that the organization continues to condemn the ideological rhetoric adopted by terrorist groups

JEDDAH: Secretary-General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Dr. Yousef bin Ahmad Al-Othaimeen announced on Wednesday that the OIC will adopt the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam (CDHRI) after it is revised in accordance with international human-rights standards. The foreign ministers of the OIC member states are expected to approve the CDHRI at their meeting in Niamey, Niger in April.

 Al-Othaimeen was speaking at the 43rd session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC), held in Geneva on Wednesday, where he highlighted some of the efforts the OIC has made to fight racism and xenophobia — including Islamophobia — claiming that they are the result of “intellectual and political resistance to cultural pluralism.”

He said the OIC, in cooperation with its partners, has prepared “a comprehensive and consensual approach to address incitement to hatred, discrimination and violence on the basis of religion.”

Al-Othaimeen’s speech, which was delivered on his behalf by OIC Geneva Permanent Representative Nassima Baghli, stressed that terrorism, including religious extremism, is a major source of concern for the international community. He pointed out that the OIC continues to condemn the ideological rhetoric adopted by terrorist groups and has established the Sawt Al-Hikma (Voice of Wisdom) Center, which focuses on addressing the ideological rhetoric of extremists.

His speech also reviewed the most common human-rights violations suffered by Muslims, referring to the detailed documentation from the UN’s own human rights bodies and the OIC of discrimination and violence against the Rohingya Muslims.

Al-Othaimeen explained that America’s actions in Palestine in recent months required the OIC to stress that any peace initiative between Israel and Palestine must be consistent with legitimate rights, foremost among which is the right to self-determination.

He also stressed the OIC’s support for Kashmiris in their pursuit of their legitimate right to self-determination in accordance with international resolutions and highlighted the OIC’s condemnation of Armenia’s continued occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh and seven regions bordering Azerbaijan.