200 survivors and relatives of victims of Christchurch massacres take part in Hajj

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27-year-old Farah Talal is pictured at a hotel in the in Saudi Arabia's holy city of Mecca on August 7, 2019, prior to the start of the annual Hajj pilgrimage in the holy city. (AFP)
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Rana Faraj, the wife of Kamel Darwish, who died during the Christchurch mosque shootings, in Makkah. (Reuters)
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Naila Hassan, New Zealand’s most senior Muslim police officer, and Shehadeh Al-Sinawi, one of the injured victims of the Christchurch mosque shootings, in Makkah, Saudi Arabia. (Reuters)
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Chouaib Milne, left, and Amir Mohamed Khan, in Makkah. Two hundred survivors and relatives of victims of March’s massacres at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, are undertaking the Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia. (AFP)
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Shehadeh Al-Sinawi, one of the injured victims of the Christchurch mosque shootings, in Makkah. (Reuters)
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Aya Al-Umari, whose brother Hussein was killed in the Christchurch mosque attacks, holds a photo of herself and her brother. (AP)
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Gamal Fouda, the imam of Al Noor mosque in Christchurch, is among 200 survivors and relatives from the Christchurch mosque shootings who are traveling to Saudi Arabia as guests of King Salman for the Hajj pilgrimage, a trip many hope will help them to heal. (AP)
Updated 09 August 2019

200 survivors and relatives of victims of Christchurch massacres take part in Hajj

  • The survivors and relatives of victims of the Christchurch massacres were given a heroes’ welcome as they arrived on August 2
  • 51 people were killed when a white supremacist attacked worshippers during Friday prayers in the quiet New Zealand town, sparking global revulsion

MAKKAH: Two hundred survivors and relatives of victims of March’s massacres at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, are undertaking the Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia to “pray for the martyrs.”
“I want the world to know who Atta Elayyan was,” said 27-year-old Farah Talal, dressed in a green djellaba robe and an elegant white scarf during her visit to Islam’s holiest city.
Her husband Atta was among 51 people killed when a white supremacist attacked worshippers during Friday prayers in the quiet New Zealand town, sparking global revulsion.




Chouaib Milne, left, and Amir Mohamed Khan, in Makkah. (AFP)


“He was a wonderful person, generous, I want to pay tribute to him,” murmured the young woman of Jordanian-origin who, along with 200 others affected by the massacre, was invited to the Hajj by Saudi’s King Salman.
Authorities have said they hope to “ease their suffering” as part of “the kingdom’s efforts in response to terrorism.”
The survivors and relatives of victims were given a heroes’ welcome as they arrived on August 2.




Rana Faraj, the wife of Kamel Darwish, who died during the Christchurch mosque shootings, in Makkah. (Reuters)


They were also greeted by the flashes of press cameras.
The Hajj, the high point of the Islamic calendar, began on Friday.
Drawing in more than two million Muslims from around the world, it will last five days.

 

Atta Elayyan, of Palestinian-origin, ran an app development company and played goalkeeper for New Zealand’s national futsal side. He left behind a two-year-old daughter.
“He gave us the strength to carry on every day. He is a martyr, just like all the other victims of the carnage,” said Talal of her husband in a vast hotel complex reserved for guests of the Saudi royal family.
Amir Mohamed Khan, 14, lost his father Mohammed Imran Khan, a 47-year-old restaurateur originally from India, on March 15 in New Zealand’s worst mass killing in modern times.




Aya Al-Umari, whose brother Hussein was killed in the Christchurch mosque attacks, holds a photo of herself and her brother. (AP)


“I was in school on March 15,” said Khan, his green eyes glistening as he wore a traditional salwar kameez. “I was very shocked, I didn’t have any reactions... I couldn’t believe it... I loved him so much.
“It will be very hard without him, but I’m thankful to be in Makkah today. I’m doing Hajj for my father, to pray for him.”
His friend Chouaib Milne, 16, lost his brother Sayyad Milne — two years his junior — when he was killed while praying in Christchurch’s Al-Noor mosque, one of the two places of worship targeted.
“I was supposed to be at Friday prayers with my brother, but I was on a school trip,” he said, wearing a white salwar kameez, along with a red and white checkered headscarf.
“When I’m at the Kaaba,” the cubic structure in the Grand Mosque that is Islam’s holiest site and toward which all Muslims pray, “I will pray for my brother and do Hajj for my brother,” Milne added.




Gamal Fouda, the imam of Al Noor mosque in Christchurch, is among 200 survivors and relatives from the Christchurch mosque shootings who are traveling to Saudi Arabia as guests of King Salman for the Hajj pilgrimage. (AP)


Many Muslims in Christchurch were affected by the bloodshed, in a country where Muslims make up one percent of the population.
Afghan Taj Mohammad Kamran, 47, recounted how the attacker “shot me in my leg (and) after (that) shot one of my friends — he was lost.”
Kamran, his head wrapped in a turban, was shot three times in total and now walks with crutches.
“Before I had too much depression. Now I come here, I relax — all Muslims want Hajj.”

 


A catering firm in Saudi Arabia tackles obesity from school level

Updated 19 October 2019

A catering firm in Saudi Arabia tackles obesity from school level

  • Rihab Hasanain set up Blooming Bs to provide schoolchildren with healthy meals
  • Blooming Bs strives to raise awareness of the obesity problem in the Kingdom

CAIRO: One Saudi woman was so concerned about her children’s unhealthy school-canteen meals that she decided to improve not only her family’s diet but also the eating habits of the entire nation.

Rihab Hasanain, spurred by the Kingdom’s growing obesity epidemic, set up the catering firm Blooming Bs to provide children with healthy lunch boxes and offer them advice on the importance of eating healthy food and being active.

The company’s name originates from the three Bs: Brain, body and box. The healthy boxes are provided to students and children aged two and above at schools, canteens, childcare centers and indoor playground centers.

Saudi Arabia has the Middle East’s second-highest obesity level after Kuwait with a 35.4 percent rating,  according to the CIA World Factbook.

Hasanain said that she wants to raise awareness of the region’s obesity problem, particularly among children.

“Childhood obesity is one of the greatest challenges facing health care systems worldwide,” she said.

“A number of factors have contributed to the problem, such as lack of childhood physical activities, and a low awareness around the prevalence of obesity and non-communicable diseases.”

Hasanain said that Blooming Bs’ mission is to combat childhood obesity in Saudi Arabia and neighboring countries by promoting healthy eating habits.

Rihab Hasanain

This includes educating children and parents about the importance of healthy food and lifestyles, providing youngsters with healthy food choices, and creating a community of future healthy eaters.

In Saudi Arabia, a major contributing factor to the obesity crisis is the widespread availability of unhealthy food in school canteens, she said.

In 2016, the ambitious mother of two took matters into her own hands by establishing her commercial kitchen in the Kingdom’s capital Riyadh.

Using her personal savings, Hasanain hired a team of 10 multidisciplinary women, including public relations and administration staff, social-work specialists, early childhood educators and drivers.

She also leveraged her international connections to help secure support and endorsement from a number of prominent mentors.

“They are extraordinary individuals with an outstanding track record in social entrepreneurship, hospitality and, most importantly, health promotion and healthy school canteens,” Hasanain said.

Blooming Bs has since grown to cater to more than 20 day-care units and schools, as well as hundreds of individual families. The firm has now sold more than 45,000 items and served over 10,000 lunch meals since its launch.

Hasanain said that the company’s contracts and deliveries vary according to customer categories.

“Our products range from morning, lunch and afternoon meals for children to freshly squeezed juices and individual food items that can be sold individually at school canteens,” she said.

“We take the stress away for parents. Our clients are assured that our products are healthy because the meals are created based on the consultation of our in-house nutritionist.”

While Hasanain is well on her way to transforming the diets of children in Riyadh, she has her eye on the bigger picture.

The Blooming Bs entrepreneur also aims to solve childhood obesity in neighboring countries, such as the UAE, Kuwait and Qatar.

“During Blooming Bs’ expansion, I have tried to develop a holistic viewpoint on children’s nutrition, leading to improved operation processes and ideas,” Hasanain said.

“Blooming Bs also wants to empower Saudi and Arab women by creating more job opportunities,” she added.

“Ultimately, I see my company becoming an upscale international brand, trusted by parents, schools and governments.”

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• This report is being published by Arab News as a partner of the Middle East Exchange, which was launched by the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to reflect the vision of the UAE prime minister and ruler of Dubai to explore the possibility of changing the status of the Arab region.