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Group of families affected by Christchurch terrorist attack begin pilgrimage to Mecca

Some of the families affected by the Christchurch terrorist attack have just boarded their first flight on a pilgrimage to the Islamic holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia.

Fourteen people were on hand at Christchurch Airport this afternoon to check in to their Emirates flights, to begin 20 hours of flights that will take them through Sydney, Dubai and Jeddah, before they finally arrive at Mecca.

More than 200 people affected by the attacks have been invited to attend on an all-expenses paid trip by the Saudi King, who is one of the world’s most wealthy people, fronting up for commercial and private charter flights and 7 star hotels for the survivors.

They'll join more than 2 million Muslims there for the annual Hajj pilgrimage, a trip all believers must take at least once in their lives if they have financial means to do so.

Amongst today’s group was Samim Siddiqui, who was shot during in the arm during the attack at Al Noor mosque, and his wife Raheena Parween.

The couple live behind the Al Noor mosque and Ms Parween sheltered many survivors during the attack. They’re excited for what they say is a "lifetime achievement".

"After the 15th of March, we're dealing with a lots of things - pain, [being] traumatized - and everything, but this is going to help, really going to help, change our lives," Ms Parween says.

The couple’s daughter, Alisha Siddique, knows just how much this means to her parents – she says her mother had vowed not to return home to India until she'd been to Mecca.

"Honestly I think ever since I've known my mum, she's always prayed that before she dies she needs to go to Hajj," she says.

So many are heading out that the airport had to fly in specialist bag tags for the occasion and has opened a special check-in area.

Another 45 will follow at the weekend, with others not far behind, before the pilgrimage officially begins on August 9.

Those who have already been through so much, hoping they can emerge new people on the other side.

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They’re the first of 200 people making the all-expenses paid trip, courtesy of the Saudi King. Source: 1 NEWS