By Mustafa J. Salem
Despite some administrative challenges due to Libya’s instability, Libyan pilgrims were able to join millions of Muslims from around the world in the holy land for the Haj this year because of the perseverance and commitment of the Libyan Pilgrim Authority (LPA) and other organisations, including the Scouts and Guides of Libya.
The LPA faced many challenges as it prepared visas and other paperwork during the months leading up to the pilgrimage. The main one was Saudi Arabia’s requirement that all visa applicants hold the new, electronic passports. Most of those hoping to make the pilgrimage had to apply for new passports with limited time for processing. In addition to this, because of the closure of the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Tripoli in early 2014, all of the entry visas had to be issued by the Saudi Embassy in Tunis. With visas from several Libyan towns and cities needing to be taken by hand to Tunisia as airports had been shut down, direct flights from between Libya and Tunisia stopped, and roads blocked by warring factions, the LPA faced an administrative nightmare.
Nevertheless, 6,000 men and women made it to the holy land, where they were supported by a group of 25 experienced leaders from the Scouts and Guides of Libya from beginning to end.
On arrival, these helped the pilgrims to settle into different hotels in Mecca. In Jebel Arafat and Mena, they served as guides to various holy sites. When people got lost, the Scouts and Guides went out and searched for them to bring them back. Also while in Jebel Arafat and Mena, where the pilgrims were housed in large tents, the scouts and guides provided security for the camps.
As they planned the trip, the LPA worked hard to ensure that the Libyan pilgrims had the best accommodation possible while in Mecca. They stayed in “Mecca Towers” overlooking the Haram, and were able to do their prayers from inside the hotel. In Jebel Arafat and Mena, they stayed in air-conditioned tents located within an easy walking distance of the holy sites. In Medina, their hotel was located just across the street from the Prophet’s Mosque.
Since its inception in 1954, the Scouts and Guides of Libya have been well known for their service to the community. It is fair to say, however, that serving the pilgrims has been something of a lifetime experience for most of the group’s participants. Upon joining the movement, every scout and guide member takes an oath to do his or her best to carry out his or her duty to God, the country, and others. Those who volunteered to assist the pilgrims felt that their oaths were fulfilled to the highest degree.
Belgasem Z. Al-Awaity, leader of the Scout and Guide delegation, said that the Scouts and Guides were eager to do even more to serve pilgrims on the Haj in the future. All they need is to be asked and given enough time and information on the front end to plan well.
The Scouts and Guides of Libya, which has no political affiliation, has been doing great work during the current political crisis. [/restrict]