At the top of the sheet, after greeting Imam Reza (AS), they have written their name to give the reward of visiting the holy shrine to a student in a distant country or someone from neighboring countries such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, Georgia, and Kashmir and maybe farther in the Comoros, Cameroon, Malawi, and elsewhere.
The spiritual project of the proxy pilgrimage of Imam Reza (AS) holy shrine was implemented by the students of Imam Reza High School, Unit 3, together with their teacher who designed the project for 400 foreign students.
Mahdi Ebrahimzadeh, one of the adolescent students of this school who has not been able to visit the holy shrines in Iraq says, “I thought how much I wanted to go to Karbala and the shrine of Imam Hussein (AS) this year, but I could not. So, it is good to visit the holy shrine of Imam Reza (AS) on behalf of children far from Mashhad.”
Sajjad Zohour, an eighth grader also said: “That we do something for the happiness of another person, first of all, makes ourselves happy. I went on a pilgrimage with my family and on behalf of some students from Kashmir, India, because I wanted to make more of Imam Reza’s lovers happy.”
Another participant, Amir Ali Moqaddam, describes his feelings as, “Thank God, I could visit the shrine for one of my friends in other countries. I told myself as a neighbor of Imam Reza, that if I fail to do something for them how in the world am I supposed to answer for my deeds in the hereafter?”
Amir Ali, more mature than he looks points out, “I wanted to do something for the solidarity and unity of Muslim nations, especially Shia Muslims. I went to the shrine with my mother and performed the prayer for a boy from Georgia, in addition to reading the Aminullah and Hazrat Reza prayers. I tried to remember this remote pilgrim of Imam Reza step by step in the holy shrine.”
Hossein Tabatabainejad, a seventh grader, also participated in the proxy pilgrimage project and noted, “I loved this project because I always made pilgrimages for myself, but this time I was going to make a pilgrimage for a friend from a distance, and give him the reward and this is while the reward reaches me too.”
“I paid a visit for Ismail Tayyeb from Malawi. Although I did not know his country, I thought that we are really friends, and our hearts are not far apart and is now connected with this pilgrimage. To find out more about this friend of mine, I googled Malawi and found that Ismail lives in a small country in South Africa,” he added.
Sadeq Mirzaei, the head of the Islamic World Affairs Unit at the school, and the originator of the proxy pilgrimage project introduces it as an excuse to strengthen the children’s sense of social responsibility, saying, “Every year, our city receives the pilgrims. This year, as part of a social studies course, we asked children of seventh and eighth grades to become more familiar with their social duty in the form of participating in a proxy pilgrimage program for foreign Shia students.”
The high school teacher underscored that children need to develop self-esteem and a sense of inner worth in order to pass on their national values to others and we must be careful not to make the implementation of these cultural projects competitive and propagandistic among revolutionary groups, so that the goals of the work do not fall victim to propaganda. Another point is that understanding cultural differences is very important in intercultural communication.
Hossein Baqgoli, the director of Razavi Cultural Foundation, also explained the details on implementation of this spiritual project, saying, “This year, due to the restrictions caused by the pandemic in Iran and other countries of the world, many lovers of the Infallible Imams were not able to visit the holy shrine. But the students of Mashhad, as the hosts of the pilgrims fulfilled their social responsibility by visiting on behalf of the people who did not succeed in doing so this year.”
“The important principle in this project is to instigate creativity and expression of the pure nature of the children, who took photos of themselves in the holy shrine holding a placard with their name on it or a drawing. These works and photos were sent to Kashmiri students,” he remarked.