Indonesia Cites COVID Concerns For Travel Ban

Indonesia has cancelled the Hajj pilgrimage for its citizens for a second year in a row, due to concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic. Many Indonesians wait 20 years for the rare opportunity to visit Mecca in Saudi Arabia.

The Hajj is an annual pilgrimage to Mecca and one of the largest gathering of people in the world. Most Indonesian pilgrims are senior adults and elderly adults, who are more prone to acquire infections during the Hajj ritual.

“Due to the pandemic and for the safety of the pilgrims, the government has decided that this year it won’t allow Indonesian pilgrims to go again,” the minister of religious affairs, Yaqut Cholil Qoumas, said in a statement on Thursday. Yaqut said Saudi Arabia had not opened access to the Hajj. “It’s not just Indonesia … no countries have received quotas, because the memorandum of understanding has not been signed,” he said.

Saudi Arabia banned Muslims abroad from attending the Hajj in 2020 to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. The move was the first such ban in recent history. Authorities also dramatically reduced the number of pilgrims allowed to attend the rite to about 1,000 Saudi citizens and residents.

The Saudi health ministry said in March that it will allow people who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 to attend the Hajj this year. Just last month Saudi Arabia still considered banning overseas pilgrims because of worries about the emergence of new coronavirus variants. On Saturday, Saudi Arabia lifted a ban on travelers arriving from 11 countries, but it still requires quarantine procedures upon arrival.

Meanwhile, the number of new cases of COVID-19 in Indonesia and several other countries in the past week has not shown a significant decline. The average number of cases reported daily in Indonesia is still above 5,000. 

Before the pandemic, approximately 2.5 million Muslims made the trek to Mecca and Medina for the week-long Hajj, and the lesser, year-round Umrah pilgrimage. Indonesia is the most populous Muslim nation in the world.

In 2019, Indonesia sent more than 212,000 Hajj pilgrims to Mecca.

The Hajj is the Fifth Pillar of Islam. All Muslims who are physically and financially able to undertake the journey are compelled to make the trip during their lifetime. In addition to bringing together Muslims from around the world to participate and celebrate the diversity among pilgrims. All pilgrims must perform
a prescribed set of rituals during their journey.

There is renewed awareness and interest in the Hajj on the part of Indonesians.

Aside from the Hajj, there also exist local traditions of pilgrimage such as the pilgrimage to Tembayat, a favorite practice for many Javanese Muslims. These practices have grown out of local traditions and out of local understandings of Islam. In the modern period, a number of Muslim purists claim that these practices do not represent Islam.

Indonesia is the fourth-largest nation in the world with more than 267 million people. The country is comprised of more than 17,500 islands, including Bali, Borneo, Java, Lombok, Sumatra and Sulawesi. Learn more about Indonesia.

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