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Pilgrims from quake-ravaged Turkish town pray for victims, survivors

Turkish pilgrims embark on Haj, pray for quake victims/worldbulletin.net

Source:By SYED FAISAL ALI | ARAB NEWS/Nov.8/2011

MINA: Hundreds of Turkish pilgrims prayed for friends and relatives who were killed in last month's earthquake that devastated the remote city of Van and asked the Almighty to give survivors the courage to cope.

 

“It was very bad, very bad and we are all thinking about it and praying for those who died and their families,” said Afandee Firdous.

They thanked Muslim nations as well as the global community for their help in the aftermath of the deadly tremor, for making their lives safe and secure and ensuring that relief and rehabilitation reached thousands of distraught victims.

A total of 900 pilgrims made the long pilgrimage from Van in southeastern Turkey to the holy site despite the tremor last month that killed 534 people and left thousands homeless.

Turkey's Religious Affairs Directorate arranged for the pilgrimage of 500 people, while private brought in another 400, Mehdi Kulaz from Turkey’s local Haj Department said.

Van pilgrims’ unwavering faith, courage and determination made it possible for them to take up the spiritual journey.

“We're here with a different feeling now,” said 40-year-old Eckmeddin Rasoul, worried about his family he left behind to perform the pilgrimage.

“It was the Almighty who saved us, brought our lives back to normal, gave us strength and resources to take up the pilgrimage,” said Rasoul. “The quake has further strengthened our faith in Allah.”

“My faith in God gave me enormous strength to come out of the debris of my collapsed house after almost seven hours when I was rescued by the emergency service personnel. I’m performing Haj to thank Him for giving me a new lease of life. I sold some of my belongings to take up the pilgrimage. Nobody but Allah was with us and it's only He who helped us.”

Rasoul was among a group of around 100 pilgrims who arrived from Istanbul to Jeddah, on the first leg of their trip.

“We are overwhelmed, we prayed for our families. I prayed that the weather will not be so cold back home,” Rasoul added, as those without shelter in the devastated towns and villages in eastern Turkey risked being drenched by freezing rain.

Having been lucky enough to have been allocated one of the limited numbers of seats granted to Turkey, the pilgrims were overwhelmed with joy.

They had planned their trip months in advance and what is already a special experience for all Muslims has gained extra poignancy for those who have witnessed the destruction last month.

About 100 Turkish pilgrims, walking together, many arm in arm, wore head scarves identifying them as from Van, the devastated region of Turkey.

None of them spoke English, but after hearing the word “earthquake,” several made gestures and gave looks of horror to explain the calamity. Others sighed deeply, before all melted into the crowd. Some of the pilgrims thanked Islamic countries for sending aid.

Despite the horror they recently experienced, the pilgrims had looks of hope in their eyes as they prayed in groups for Van victims and survivors.

“My biggest prayer is for Van and for my family left behind. I asked God not to punish us anymore with these earthquakes,” said Yeldirim Bozer, whose house was damaged by the quake.

Many of the pilgrims were elderly, the majority of them men wearing loose-fitting light brown trousers and jackets that bore badges emblazoned with the Turkish flag for identification. Some women pilgrims wore white head scarves and long light-brown gowns.

 

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