Record 13,000 Chinese Muslims depart for Mecca pilgrimage

13:15, October 20, 2010      

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Starting on Oct. 18, about 13,000 Muslims left from the cities of Lanzhou, Beijing, Urumqi, Yinchuan and Kunming and flew to Medina, Saudi Arabia where they will complete the pilgrimage to Mecca in record numbers.

There are more than 20 million Muslims in China. Most of them are distributed in provinces or autonomous regions such as Xinjiang, Qinghai, Gansu, Yunnan and Ningxia. The pilgrimage, which is known as The Hajj, is not only one of the five basic rites of Islam, but also a large-scale foreign religious activity of Chinese Islam, covering 10 minority nationalities believing in Islam and more than 20 provinces. So to speak, all the pilgrimages held every year will touch the chord of all Muslims in China.
In recent years, the number of Muslims in China going to Mecca for pilgrimage has been increasing year by year. In 2007, the number of pilgrims exceeded 10,000 for the first time, and this figure reached 12,700 last year. The number of pilgrims will continue to increase this year.

This year, Gansu is the province with the second largest number of pilgrims in China, and Xinjiang ranks the first. According to the data provided by the Religious Affair Administration of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, from the Oct. 18 to the Oct. 26, 3,200 Muslims in nine batches will go from Xinjiang to Mecca on a chartered airplane for the pilgrimage.
"In 1985, the organized pilgrimage was renewed after a period of suspension in China. In that year, only a little more than 10 Muslims attended the pilgrimage in all of Gansu Province," said Ma Jianping, "In 1999, when I led a pilgrimage delegation to Mecca for the first time, the number of people in Gansu attending this pilgrimage was no more than 300. However, this figure has reached 2,460 this year, about eight times that of 1999."
The year-on-year increase of the number of pilgrims means that the economic strength of Chinese people is increasing. According to the laws of Islam, Muslims cannot attend a pilgrimage with money borrowed. They also must settle all economic disputes before they leave and leave enough living expenses for other family members. In addition, pilgrims need to take a chartered airplane, which will take more than one month, so it is difficult to do this without enough financial support.

Ma Youcheng, vice-chairman of the Islam Association of Gansu Province led a delegation to Mecca for the pilgrimage seven times. This year, as the vice-head of the Pilgrimage Delegation of Gansu Province, he went to Mecca for the eighth time.

"In the past, only with the money amassed for many years, could many Muslims put a pilgrimage into effect. However, many Muslims today can afford the expenses of pilgrimage," he said.

According to the introduction, every Muslim in Gansu joining the pilgrimage needs to pay 29,800 yuan. This money is spent on travel expenses, such as chartering an airplane. If some other expenses are added, such as purchasing souvenirs, the total expense will be around 60,000 yuan. Many Muslims go to Mecca together with their spouses, and the total expense can be more than 100,000 yuan.
To ensure that Muslims can complete their pilgrimage, relevant parties have done a lot of meticulous work. Before the departure of the first delegation of Lanzhou, every pilgrim received a Pilgrimage Manual with detailed measures for preventing and handling accidents, such as common diseases, traffic accidents, liquefied gas poisoning, fire and getting lost.

By Yan Meng, People's Daily Online


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