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Sunday, 5 November, 2000, 05:37 GMT
'Living god's' funeral divides Rastas
Rastafarians
Many Rastafarians believe Haile Selassie is alive
By the BBC's David Chazan

The reburial of Haile Selassie is expected to be attended by a number of Rastafarians, who revere the former Ethiopian emperor as a living god.


To say that our god is dead is to deny us the right to believe in what we believe in

Shango Baku
Rastas are probably better known in the West for reggae music, dreadlocks and dope-smoking than for their religious beliefs.

But the Rastafarian movement originated in Jamaica about 70 years ago.

When the Ethiopian crown prince, Ras Tafari, became the Emperor Haile Selassie in 1930, he found himself the object of mystical respect for some West Indians, who dreamed of returning to Africa to find spiritual salvation in their ancestral home.

Rastafarianism has since grown into a religious and cultural movement, and has spread around the world.

Return to Africa

A small group of Rastas has been living in Ethiopia for decades.

Haile Selassie
Haile Selassie: Object of mystical respect
Most Rastafarians believe Haile Selassie to be a god, who is still alive.

Shango Baku, a Rastafarian activist and journalist based in London, says the funeral will be more important to Ethiopians than to Rastas, who are unlikely to turn out in great numbers for the ceremony.

"There may be a few, as there are in any religion, who subscribe to something different from others within the same faith," he says.

"Most fundamentalists within the Rasta cause say we won't deal with death, we don't deal with death and therefore to say that our god is dead is to deny us the right to believe in what we believe in."

Many Rastafarians advocate a return to Africa in the same way that Zionists believe Jews should go back to Israel, although one group of Rastas, known as the Twelve Tribes, believe they are the true Jews and belong in Israel.

Smoking marijuana is considered a sacrament for the Rastas, but meat-eating, alcohol and drugs such as cocaine and heroin are forbidden.

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See also:

11 Sep 00 | Africa
Malawi Rastas' marijuana struggle
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