Why do some Jamaicans believe in Rastafarians

Rastafarian religionTake life as it comes

Most tourists come to the Caribbean island of Caye Caulker by boat. It is an hour's drive from Belize City. At the jetty, the newcomers are greeted by bright sunshine and screeching seagulls. The first hotels are less than a hundred meters away. Mostly they are simple wooden houses, in front of which guests lie in hammocks under palm trees. The waves roll slowly onto the beach. A few traders have set up their stands not far away.

The Rasta Alfred sells art. From nine in the morning until late in the evening, he sits in front of a wooden hut full of oil paintings. He keeps his head of hair hidden under a woolen hat in the pan-African colors: green, yellow and red. Alfred was born in Belize, but he describes Africa as his real home: "We are living in a good time to be Rasta. Today Rastafari is big, international. Everyone loves us Rastas. It used to be different. People have negative things there reacts when you show up at a shop or in a hospital. In Jamaica, the Rasta huts have been destroyed, their fields and marijuana crops. Everything has been burned down. "

Movement arose in the slums

Rastafari originated in the slums of the Jamaican capital Kingston in the early 1930s, where the black activist Marcus Garvey preached the origin of all human life in Africa. He prophesied that the black race - the first and once most powerful race in the world - would one day overcome their oppression and be God's chosen people again. The Jamaican Garvey is also credited with the messianic prophecy that a special black king will be crowned in Africa. Alfred: "At that time the Rastas dreamed of returning to Africa. They believed it was a better place, the motherland. Many wanted to move to Ethiopia."

Because there in Ethiopia in 1930 Prince Ras Tafari, who described himself as a direct descendant of King Solomon, had himself crowned "King of kings, lion from the tribe of Judah, chosen God" and given himself the name "Haile Selassie". Many Caribbean and American blacks now saw in him the prophesied divine leader who would bring them back to Africa from the diaspora. But there was never a massive return. Instead, over the decades, outward features of the Rasta movement such as reggae music, art, and hairstyle have spread more widely than religious beliefs. Rasta has become a fashionable style.

Interpretation of the Bible from an African perspective

In their religion, the Rastas refer to interpretations of the Bible from an African perspective, according to which blacks outside Africa live in exile like the Hebrews once did in Babylonian captivity. In the Rasta vocabulary, "Babylon" stands for slavery, oppression and racism. Their services are informal gatherings where those present discuss their interpretations of history. Marijuana is smoked to open mind and soul.

Probably the most famous Rasta and one of the most successful musicians of his time was Bob Marley. As early as the 1970s, young whites were fascinated by its ethno-political message and the pulsating reggae beat. In his native Jamaica, Marley was both a rock star and a folk hero. He managed to give the Kingston ghetto youth a black self-esteem. And around the world - from the metropolises of Japan to small villages in Africa - millions of people have their own special reasons for worshiping Bob Marley as the magician of reggae or the prophet of the Rastafarian. "The first time I heard Bob Marley I knew: this is exactly my thing. Belief in love, in healthy eating and the message of growing your own food, not eating meat, no salt. It was a wonderful one Time, but it was also a tough time, "recalls Alfred.

Bob Marley spreads the Rastafarian message

Bob Marley himself first came to Africa in 1978. There he saw the same slums and hungry faces that he knew from Jamaica. He saw the same, corrupt ruling class and the many others who live in misery. It was an Africa in which until then almost only self-appointed potentates ruled. When Marley also visited Ethiopia, he learned that Haile Selassie had died little glorious three years earlier. The body of the man, who had always rejected the divine worship of the Rastas themselves, lay buried in a grave without a name. Not a single monument commemorated the dictator who had led a life of decadent wealth. Many Ethiopians remembered their late ruler with open anger.

In Africa the message of the Rasta religion could not convince. In America, however, hundreds of thousands of black people still refer to themselves as Rastas, supporters of Haile Selassie. So does the young Ras Kent: "King David is the true ancestor of Haile Selassie and Selassie is the last king to sit on the throne of Ethiopia. He is the King of all kings, the Lord of all lords." Ras Ket adheres to the commandments of the Rasta religion. He washes his hair daily but never cuts it. And he doesn't comb them either. This is how the long, wild braids of his Rasta mane are created, a symbol of closeness to nature and against materialism. Ras Ket: "It's about helping each other. Rasta is love. The question is not whether someone owns a lot. Because today you are still here and tomorrow you will have died. Here on Caye Caulker we have to set an example to the children because many of them are Rastas. "

Valuable orientation aid

Ras Ket sits cross-legged on the beach, a few meters from a bar where a dozen young tourists quench their thirst with beer and cocktails. Ras Ket himself does not drink alcohol. He considers Rastafari a valuable orientation aid for black youth: "Some of them are already beginning to no longer respect the locals. They get involved with the tourists because they have money. These young people no longer have any love for the people, who were born in this country. They only look at the money. Such behavior has nothing to do with Rastafari. That is why we need more Rastas on Caye Caulker. People who love, who help others, who support cohesion and peace on the island Strengthen the island. "

Like Ras Ket, many Rastas want Rastafari as a lifestyle on the coasts of the entire Caribbean. As an expression of black self-confidence. The Rasta movement is a legacy of slavery. Its original pioneers preached that God intended each race to have a separate continent. But then the white peoples brought suffering and misery to the black peoples by enslaving and oppressing people of other skin colors. For this reason, it was once hoped, the black peoples would only find peace when they returned to their continent in Africa.

Global movement

But over time Rastafari has become global, with followers of all skin colors. You can also meet young Europeans with blond Rasta curls on Caye Caulker. The African American Ras Dante is happy when he sees blonde rasta locks. He believes the Rasta message applies to everyone, not just black people.
Ras Dante: "Love, nothing but love. Rastafarian is based on that. While human society is based on hatred and demarcation. We always hear about the black race, the white race, this race, that race, but the truth is: there is only people who are ultimately all the same. This stupid chatter about the races is unbearable. We are all human and together we are, if you will, the one race of human beings. "

There are different definitions of what Rastafarian should be. For some it is a religion, for others it is more of a social movement or an attitude towards life or even an ideology. Still others consider it a passing fad. Ras Dante is certain that the world would be much poorer without Rastafari: "Rastafari has the power to change a person. Anyone who used to be an idiot or a malicious person can become an understanding person who lives his life in peace , with love in my heart. "

Juvenile delinquency is increasing

For several years now, Belize society has seen an increase in juvenile delinquency. Many children, especially among the blacks, grow up without their parents. Because they often moved to the USA to look for a better future there. Belize has a population of 350,000. Another 50,000 live in Los Angeles and New York. Sections of the younger generation who have stayed behind in Belize and are bombarded with the consumer message of the media dream of a life of luxury. In order to get a lot of money as quickly as possible, they often join organized gangs in the hope of getting rich through drug trafficking.

In this social situation, Rastafari can be a valuable alternative for young people, even the Anglican pastor Snyders is convinced of this. Snyders came to Belize from Scotland 33 years ago and knows the country very well: "The Rastas take life as it comes. They don't care about having a lot. There is something wonderful about their spirituality. I have the impression that they to stand up against materialism with full conviction, combined with a deep respect for God. I like that, especially because they are really delivering their message. I don't see them getting involved in the world of greed like many Christians do . "