Some members of the Rastafarian communities have complained they do not enjoy the same legal protections as Christians or Muslims.
Ras Patrick Galawanda of Lilongwe Nyahbinghi Theocracy Reign said after the visit of Unite Religious Initiative (URI)s Interfaith Development Officer Geoffrey Manasseh that there has been societal discrimination based on Rasta’s religious affiliation, belief, or practice.
He alleged that the overwhelmingly Christian population discriminated against Rastas despite preaching the word of the living God, although there were signs of some acceptance.
“We are over a million, sons and daughters of Heillie Selassie, the true sons of Malawi and we wonder why Public Affairs Committee [ a quasi-religious body] does not invite or register this religion in their membership.
“As Malawians, we need to promote peace, love and unity so that our political leaders find their administration easier. Let us join hands and we seek more of these visitation to this place, this being the first of its kind,” he said amid applause from the visibly excited audience.
The URI tour was organised as an observation of the annual seven days of religious ‘Harmony Week’. The event which started at St Peter’s Anglican Church, Falls Area 1 Mosque, and Rastafarian Tabernacle finished at Shree Hindu Seva Samaj Temple in Area 2.
URI’s purpose is to promote enduring and daily interfaith cooperation to end religiously motivated violence and create cultures of peace, justice and healing for the earth and all living beings.
Macpherson Nchesi commented that Rastas discrimination is not helped by government policies.
“Our government as long as religious denominations are contributing much to the stigma towards dreadrocked Rastas because they are not allowed to attend government schools or even work for the government unless their dreadrocks are shaved. I would wish the country to allow Rastas to work in government institutions while in dreadrocks,” he said.
Rastafarians said that elements of their religion, such as wearing dreadlocks and smoking marijuana, presented serious barriers to their ability to find employment and achieve professional status in the official economy.
The Rastafarians continued to allege that law enforcement officials unfairly targeted them.
“In most cases a Rastaman is seen as a dirty person, uneducated and ganja smoking person.A lot of people don’t really understand the difference between a Rastaman and a Dreadlocks man. Its complicated,” said one Rasta who spoke to Nyasa Times in Lilongwe.
Ra Alao Kalawole said: “Rastafarianism is more than a religion. It is an enlightenment, it exposes you to the light. Alongside soulful music from great prophets like Bob Marley et al, your soul is touched right inside your body and you are lifted on high.”
But some Christians who spoke to Nyasa Times said Rasta’s discriminaton has to do with their “penchant to smoke weed incessantly” and some do isolate themselves from society.
“One distressing thing about those who nurtured dreadlocks is that they have a disposition to be arrogant and comtemptuous,” commended Luke Banda.
But Mable Titani argued that if Rastafarians are misunderstood, they have themselves to blame because” a group is judged by what is observed.”
Titani said: “ They promote smoking of marijuana which is an outlawed drug in many countries. In many cases they present themselves as a violent group and many people including me dont admire the dreadlocks they grow. “
Meanwhile, URI’s Manasseh called upon different religious leaders and their membership to respect one another’s religious beliefs if they are to contain conflicts that come as a result of religious differences.
“Let us live in respect of one another despite the religious diversity. The moment we start undervaluing or despising someone’s religion, we can put the whole world in total chaos.
“We all belong to one supernatural being with supernatural authority over His creation and divine powers. Though we give Him different names, we all worship God,” Manasseh said.
He cited a recent incident in Chinsapo, Lilongwe where Muslims and Christians quarreled over cultural and religious aspects which led to the two camps fighting.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :