JEDDAH – Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation, is sending the largest contingent of Haj and Umrah pilgrims, according to Indonesian Consul General Dr. Mohamad Hery Saripudin.
“A total of 1.2 million Indonesian Haj and Umrah pilgrims are expected in 2018. These include over 900,000 pilgrims who came to perform Umrah, in addition to 221,000 pilgrims who are expected to come for Haj,” he said while addressing an Iftar meet he hosted here on Sunday.
Saripudin said Haj is the most vital connecting point between Indonesia and Saudi Arabia. The Indonesian pilgrims included even those who wait for getting a chance for the lifetime spiritual journey since 40 years, and the number of intending pilgrims on the waiting list is around 2.5 million. The pilgrims who arrived last year were mainly those who had completed registration process in 2011. “Our Minister of Religious Affairs Lukman Hakim Saifuddin is now in Makkah to oversee the elaborate arrangements and preparations being made for the coming Haj,” he said.
The consul general said Saudi Arabia and Indonesia enjoy excellent bilateral relations and cooperation that date back to several decades. “We are embarking on a host of initiatives to strengthen these bilateral ties in all spheres of life. As part of further boosting economic and business ties, Indonesian Solo Trade Exhibition will be held in Jeddah in November and it will be featured by the visit of a high-level trade mission from Indonesia,” he said.
Saripudin announced that Indonesian expatriates living in the Kingdom would have an opportunity to exercise their franchise for the upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections. “I have received confirmation from our higher authorities that Indonesians in the Kingdom would avail the opportunity to cast their ballots. The date set for voting at the diplomatic mission premises is April 12.”
According to the consul general, more than 100,000 Indonesians are expected to cast their votes. In Jeddah, polling facilities will be arranged at the premises of the consulate and the residence of the consul general. Preparations for this have already been begun and we have received the approval from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in this respect,” he added.
Addressing the gathering, veteran journalist and Editor-at-large of Saudi Gazette Khaled Almaeena lauded the Indonesian community for their remarkable contributions as guest workers in the Kingdom. “Indonesia has always been a friendly country and never had any problems here all through these years. The Kingdom and Indonesia maintain strong relations in the religious, economic, social and political realms,” he said adding “we are proud of Indonesia as the first Muslim country to build a plane of their own.”
Almaeena commended the Indonesian Haj mission for their marvelous and meticulously planned Haj and Umrah operation. “You discipline your pilgrims in the best manner well before their arrival in the Kingdom. Mutawwifs used to say that Indonesians are the most disciplined pilgrims who manage themselves and thus contributing to the smooth conduct of the Haj,” he added.
Those who attended the event included Abdulkhalig Al-Zahrani, editor in chief of Tala magazine and director of print media section at the Ministry of Information, Nezar Al-Ali, director of Media Center at Iqraa Television Channels, Ahmed Al-Zahrani, senior editor of Arab Tourism Magazine, as well as Indonesian Consuls — Bachtiar (economic affairs), Muchamad Yusuf (labor affairs) and Ibnu Ismoyo (immigration affairs).