Religion plays a very important and significant role in the lives of many members of ethnic minority communities, though as with other aspects of community life, it is important to remember that people are individuals and will vary in the strictness of their religious observance. Rastafarian The Rastafarian religion developed in Jamaica as an expression of the African identity of Black people in the West Indies.
It is based on the ideas of Marcus Garvey who founded the Universal Negro Improvements Association (UNIA) in the 1920’s as a means of restoring the dignity of the Black people lost through many years of domination and colonization by Europeans. The Rastafarian religion takes its name from Ras (prince) Tafari Makonem, born in 1892 who took the title Haile Selassie 1 when he was crowned Emperor of Ethiopia in November 1930.
Marcus Garvey had prophesied earlier; “Look to Africa, when a Black king shall be crowned, for the day of deliverance is near” and his followers were convinced that this event marked the second coming of Christ in the person of Haile Selassie. Beliefs The Rastafarian religion is based on the Christian faith but it rejects the European concept of God as white, believing that it is equally valid to believe in a black God. Rastafarianism believes that Haile Selassie 1, Ras Tafari, is the true and living God (Jah) and is regarded as fully incarnate.
Despite the lack of a central authority, Rastafarianism is guided by key tenets of faith. The Bible is the main religious text of Rastafarianism. The African race is one of God’s chosen races, one of the twelve Tribes of Israel. They also believe that the Bible provides evidence that the Israelites were black and that Rastas now living in exile in Jamaica are their descendents. Rastafarians share the moral values of Christianity. Their faith is derived from a very detailed reading of the Bible especially the Old Testament and the Book of Revelations in the New Testament.
They also believe strongly in the power of nature, that the human race should live in harmony with nature and that the destruction of the environment by developed nations is evil. Worship Music is important to Rastafarians. Reggae music has often expressed their struggle for liberation and is an important medium through which black pride is projected. Music, drumming (the instrument rooted in African traditional music) and dancing form are part of the worship. For many Rastafarians smoking marijuana (ganja) is an important part of their worship and a ritual aid for meditation.
The shape of the hand when praying is a symbol for both peace and war. It represents a heart and a spear. The use of marijuana (ganja) is of course highly controversial and, indeed, illegal in Britain. Symbols they commonly used Lion One of the most prominent symbols among the Rastafarians is the lion. The lion represents Haile Selassie I, the Conquering Lion of Judah. In Jamaica, it can be viewed on houses, flags, in their tabernacles, and just about any other place where Rastafarians have connections. It even appears in their artwork, in their songs, and in their poetry.
The lion represents not only the King of Kings, but also the maleness of the movement. The Rastas stimulate the spirit of the lion in the way that they wear their dreadlocks and in the way that they walk. To the general public, the symbol of the lion represents strength, knowledge, and aggression. Colors The defining colors of the Rastafarian religion are red, gold, and green. These colors were taken from the Garvey movement. The color red symbolizes the blood that martyrs have shed in the history of the Rastas. The yellow or gold represents the wealth of the homeland – symbolizes the faith, prosperity and sunshine.
Green represents the beauty and vegetation of Ethiopia, the Promised Land – the promise of a new life in Africa. Sometimes black is used to represent the color of Africans or symbolizes pride in the black skin, to whom 98% of the Jamaicans are descended. Dress The best-known symbol identified with Rastafarianism is the wearing of hair in “dreadlocks”. This is derived from a reference in the Book of Numbers (Chapter 6, Verse 5) in the King James Bible, the version of the Bible, which is very important to Rastafarians.
The dreadlocks represent the lion’s mane and the hair of the African warrior. Rastafarian women dress modestly. There is a taboo on wearing second-hand clothing, so the patient may be unwilling to wear hospital garments that have been worn by others. A disposable theatre gown may be preferred. Food A preference for natural foods is to be expected from Rastafarian beliefs and although there are no formal dietary restrictions, a vegetarian diet is preferable to meat, especially pork. It is believed to assist prayer and meditation and to have medicinal properties.
It is also used in cooking. Some do not drink milk or coffee. Babylon Jamaica is the biblical ‘Babylon’, although all the places to which Africans have been exiled are also included. ‘Babylon’ is the place, which will never see spiritual reform and liberation. ‘Jah’ is believed to reside in each person and there is ‘Oneness’ between the individual and God. Revivalism, the belief that they are destined to be delivered out of captivity by a return to Zion or Africa, is the key tenet of faith held by the adherents to Rastafarianism (DEOT, 21).
The name of the ancient city has been adopted by Rastafarians to embody the whole concept of white domination and conditioning aimed at persuading Blacks to accept that they are inferior. It has become a sort of code word, particularly for young Blacks, who use it to symbolize the racial prejudice, social injustice and social exclusion, which they experience in Britain. It is worth emphasizing that many young people find the cultural identity provided by the symbols of Rastafarianism attractive without being believers in the faith and living by its codes of behavior.
True Rastafarians often resent the effect this behavior has on people’s perception of their faith. Politics Rastafari culture does not encourage mainstream political involvement. In fact, in the early stages of the movement most Rastas did not vote, out of principle. Ras Sam Brown formed the Suffering People’s Party for the elections of 1962. Although he received fewer than 100 votes, simply standing for election was a powerful act.
In the election campaign of 1972, People’s National Party leader, Michael Manley used a prop, a walking stick given to him by Haile Selassie, which was called the “Rod of Correction”, in a direct appeal to Rastafarian values. In the famous free One Love Peace Concert on April 22, 1978; first Peter Tosh lambasted the audience, including attending dignitaries, with political demands that included legalising cannabis. He did this while smoking a spliff, a criminal act in Jamaica. However 5 months after this bold move Tosh was badly beaten by the Jamaican authorities.
At this same concert, Bob Marley asked both then-Prime Minister Michael Manley, and opposition leader Edward Seaga onto the stage; and a famous picture was taken with all three of them holding their hands together above their heads in a symbolic gesture of peace during what had been a very violent election campaign. Rastafari Nandor Tanczos is a prominent politician in New Zealand’s Green Party. Today, Rastafari has to some extent become a socially accepted group in mainstream society, and in the United Kingdom some of them work with the police in trying to keep peace on the streets. Death
Rastafarians believe in reincarnation; life is eternal, moving from one generation to the next through spiritual and genealogical inheritance. There are no special ceremonies following death. Family planning Most Rastafarians do not believe in contraception. On Clinical procedures Blood transfusion There will probably be anxieties about this because of concerns about contamination of the body. Assurance will be necessary (Mootoo, 15). Organ transplantation Not generally acceptable. Death and dying Care of the dying Among Rastafarians, visiting the sick is important. Visits are often made in groups.
Family members may wish to pray at the bedside. Apart from this there are no rites or rituals, before or after death. Procedure at death Routine last rites are appropriate, and burial is preferred conventional treatment. The distinctive hairstyles (dreadlocks or locks) are a symbol of the Rastafarian faith. Orthodox members may not permit their hair to be cut. Special considerations Rastafarians will be unwilling to receive any treatment that will contaminate the body. They will prefer alternative therapies, such as herbals or acupuncture. However, those who seek the advice of doctors are likely to accept some conventional treatment.