Alhaji Alieu Dausy and Haja Isatu Wurie died during the Hajj pilgrimage. Source: Angela Alosbrook's X

Maryland’s Sierra Leonean Couple Dies from Extreme Heat During Hajj

Remembering Alhaji Alieu Dausy and Haja Isatu Wurie, who were pillars in their local African immigrant & Diaspora community.

2 mins read

Mia Boykin

The annual Hajj pilgrimage, a cornerstone of the Islamic faith, turned tragic this year as extreme heat claimed over 1,000 lives, including two members of Maryland’s African immigrant community. The deaths of Alhaji Alieu Dausy Wurie, 71, and Haja Isatu Wurie, 65, a couple from Bowie, Maryland, highlight the increasing dangers posed by climate change to religious practices and the vulnerabilities faced by immigrant communities. 

The Wuries, originally from Sierra Leone, had long dreamed of making the pilgrimage to Mecca. Their daughter, Saida Wurie, recounted her last communication with her parents to NBC Washington 4: “She let me know that they had been walking for over two hours to get to Mount Arafat, which is part of the Hajj process.”

Their daughter explained how her parents paid for transportation, but it wasn’t provided, forcing them to join the pilgrimage by foot. Despite these challenges, the couple persevered, driven by their faith. “Despite everything, they still walked and pushed to what they wanted to do because of their religion,” Saida Wurie said.

The deaths of this couple give insight into the complex intersection of religious practices, immigrant experiences, and the effects of climate change. As global temperatures rise, traditional pilgrimages and religious gatherings face unprecedented challenges. The Hajj, which draws millions of Muslims to Saudi Arabia each year, is particularly vulnerable due to its location in an already hot climate and the physical demands placed on pilgrims.

For many African immigrants, the Hajj represents not only a religious obligation but also a connection to their heritage and home country. This makes the pilgrimage even more important, as many may feel lost or disconnected from the American lifestyle, the Hajj provides a space to feel at home again. 

The loss of the Wuries resonates deeply within the African diaspora community in Prince George’s County, where the couple was well-known for their civic engagement and humanitarian work. Haja Isatu Wurie served on Prince George’s County’s African Diaspora Advisory Board, where she was remembered for her dedication to community service.

Chukwunonso Vincent Iweanoge, a fellow board member, told NBC Washington 4, “During the COVID workforce, she (Haja Isatu Wurie) was the first one there. When it came to food drives, she was also the first one there.” The couple’s commitment to the community expanded internationally, with Wurie traveling to Sierra Leone to assist with the Ebola outbreak response.

Their involvement in local politics, including work on Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks’ campaign for U.S. Senate, further illustrates African immigrants’ role in shaping their communities. Alsobrooks expressed her condolences, noting Wurie’s “transformational impacts that were felt both locally and globally.”

The couple’s dedication to supporting other Africans in their communities demonstrates the importance of building bonds within the African diasporic community. The couple embodies what it means to build bridges between a new and old home, by ensuring their community’s issues have a voice. 

As climate change gets worse, religious institutions and governments must grapple with how to protect pilgrims and preserve sacred traditions. The thousands of deaths at this year’s Hajj serve as a reminder of the urgent need for climate action, and how it is damaging our communities as we speak.  

For the children of the Wuries, their parents’ legacy of service provides a path forward. “We want to continue doing what our parents did, giving our time to charity,” Saida Wurie told NBC Washington 4. As they mourn their loss, the family plans to travel to Saudi Arabia to learn where their parents were buried.

The tragic deaths of Alhaji Alieu Dausy and Haja Isatu Wurie not only highlight the far-reaching impacts of climate change but also on deeply personal expressions of faith and cultural identity. Maryland, the African Diaspora, and especially the Sierra Leone diaspora community mourns their loss and celebrates the enduring work they did in shaping the community. 

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