HomeLatest NewsThousands of Indonesian officers dedicate themselves to elderly Hajj pilgrims

Thousands of Indonesian officers dedicate themselves to elderly Hajj pilgrims

JAKARTA: When Agus Sutisna decided to become a Hajj officer, he hoped his service would help Indonesian pilgrims perform their spiritual journey this year.

Sutisna, who is in charge of dozens of Indonesian groups in Makkah, prepared himself ahead of time for the role to make sure he and his team were also ready to assist the elderly, who comprise about 30 percent of Indonesia’s 241,000 pilgrims.

“Aside from the physical preparations, we must also be ready to present ourselves with sincerity and love,” Sutisna told Arab News in a phone interview on Thursday.

“Especially for officers who are taking care of the elderly, it’s clear how they must be sincere in their heart and be willing to dedicate themselves.”

The 49-year-old is one of over 5,300 Indonesian officers posted in Saudi Arabia to take care of their country’s largest-ever Hajj contingent, a diverse group of people coming from 38 provinces spread across the archipelago nation.

Special Hajj flights from the world’s biggest Muslim-majority nation commenced on May 12 and are expected to conclude on June 10.

Although the Hajj should start on June 14 this year, many pilgrims depart early to make the most of the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to fulfil their religious duty.

Sutisna said he is achieving his aspiration as a Hajj officer and finds himself touched by the devotion of Indonesian pilgrims, especially those who are elderly and require special assistance.

“Their desire for worship is so strong and it has left such an impression on me, I am extremely moved,” he said.

“I hope that my sincerity and dedication for Hajj pilgrims can be accepted by the pilgrims themselves … All of us, not just me alone, from the Indonesian Hajj Organization Committee, will continue to serve them with all our heart, with all our love.”

As the committee’s main mission is to guide, serve and protect Indonesian pilgrims, their duties begin long before the pilgrims’ arrival in Saudi Arabia, with officers making logistical preparations to ensure a smooth Hajj journey for hundreds and thousands of people.

While over 2,700 officers are attached to 554 groups of Indonesian pilgrims, about 2,600 more are assigned to other aspects of the pilgrimage, such as food, health and transportation, said Nasrullah Jasam, who heads the committee in Saudi Arabia.

“The people we are serving are not just any guests, they are God’s guests,” Jasam told media.

“The Indonesian Hajj Organization Committee is motivated to perform its duties with dedication because the satisfaction that we earn isn’t a matter of honor, but about how they can be useful to the people who have been chosen in this noble land to perform their spiritual journey.”

For many Indonesian pilgrims, their Hajj journey comprises many firsts, as it is often their first time abroad and their first experience of a climate so dramatically unlike Indonesia’s, which can be challenging for the elderly.

“With the presence of officers among them, we want to make the pilgrims feel at home, comfortable and safe … We try to treat the pilgrims as if they are our family members, our parents … so that the pilgrims, in the middle of very hot weather and amid the sea of people, can feel protected,” Jasam said.

Some Hajj officers have had to carry elderly pilgrims or feed them, and make sure that they are healthy throughout their time in Saudi Arabia.

“Their spiritual worship here takes place as they serve the pilgrims … It’s amazing how spirited they are to serve our pilgrims, to simply show them the way and to help those who are sick or lost,” he added.

“The nature and weather here in Saudi Arabia, for Indonesians, are pretty extreme … It is our hope as Hajj officers that the pilgrims’ journey will be smooth and they can perform their Hajj journey solemnly and to the fullest, so that they can go back to our homeland with their Hajj accepted and they can contribute to their community.”AP

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