Saudi King Salman to host New Zealand terror victims’ families for Hajj

Saudi Arabia will host 200 Hajj pilgrims of families of victims of the terrorist attack in Christchurch, New Zealand on the orders of King Salman. (SPA)
Updated 18 July 2019

Saudi King Salman to host New Zealand terror victims’ families for Hajj

  • They will perform Hajj as part of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques’ Guest Program for Hajj and Umrah
  • New Zealand ‘humbled by support from Kingdom,’ envoy tells Arab News

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.”

An armed police officer (R) stands guard outside the Al Noor mosque, one of the mosques where some 50 people were killed by a self-avowed white supremacist gunman on March 15, 2019, in Christchurch, New Zealand. (AFP file photo)


Ithra marks National Day with exhibitions, competitions and performances

Updated 23 September 2020

Ithra marks National Day with exhibitions, competitions and performances

  • The study reveals a need to protect and preserve Saudi heritage in the face of cultural homogenization

RIYADH: The King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Ithra) is marking Saudi Arabia’s 90th National Day with exhibitions, a scavenger hunt, a fine dining pop-up, and artistic performances.

The center started its National Day celebrations on Sept. 21 and the activities run through to Sept. 26. 

Rania Biltagi, the head of communication and partnerships at Ithra, said she hoped that people this year would ask themselves what being Saudi meant to them.

“I am proud to be part of an organization created as a creative and cultural destination perfectly positioned to drive and participate in conversations such as these,” she told Arab News. “Our mandate involves igniting cultural curiosity, exploring knowledge and inspiring creativity, and it’s a task we don’t take lightly.”

“Saudi at heart, multicultural by nature” had been the Ithra motto from the start, she said, and the center was always looking inward even as it looked outward.

Biltagi shared the results of research that Ithra had conducted about the impact of globalization on Saudi Arabia’s culture.

“The study reveals a need to protect and preserve Saudi heritage in the face of cultural homogenization. However, it also shows that Saudis are willing and able to embrace modernity and globalization while still cherishing their unique national identity.”

Ithra has created the “Kingdom of Cultures” exhibition, which will take visitors on an interactive and state-of-the-art journey through Saudi Arabia’s lands and tell stories about the Saudi people. It will also feature crafts, dialects and customs.

Writer and Saudi heritage expert Ali Ibrahim Moghawi said he was honored to be participating in the festival as part of the “Flower Men” booth.

“To be representing our great nation at the very place where oil was first discovered, a place that represents the heart of progress in Saudi Arabia, the place that has done the most to respect our heritage and support every Saudi generation future, past, and present, is an honor,” he told Arab News.

Ithra has scheduled musical performances from Saudi band Al-Farabi, which will also feature the pianist Abeer Balubaid and singer Ameen Farsi. Award-winning poet Abdulatif Almubarak will host an evening of poetry – “Aswat” – accompanied by musicians in a celebration of Saudi civilization.

The center has devised a pop-up restaurant called Takya, which will offer guests a fine dining experience with Saudi fusion cuisine and modern takes on old favorites.

It has also announced plans to revamp and renovate an old farmer’s market in Alkhobar’s Al-Ulaya district to give it an energetic and artsy edge. The covered space is being redecorated and will feature areas for art and music, in addition to a dedicated and upgraded space where local farmers can sell their produce.

Ithra plans to curate installations at the market to make it more visually appealing as well as to take art and creativity directly to the community.

It has scheduled two celebration sessions a day with limited space and occupancy. The first runs from 4:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. while the second is from 8:30 p.m. until midnight.

Tickets to the events, as well as the special performances, are available on Ithra’s website.