Academic journal article The Ecumenical Review

Praying for Rain? A Rastafari Perspective from Zimbabwe

Academic journal article The Ecumenical Review

Praying for Rain? A Rastafari Perspective from Zimbabwe

Article excerpt

Abstract

Climate change remains one of the most enigmatic questions that humanity urgently needs to address. Emanating from the ecological crisis, climate change threatens the survival of some species (including humanity) and the depletion of natural resources. The situation is deplorable, but arguably religion/spirituality can contribute to meeting the challenge. This study explores a Zimbabwean Rastafari perspective on praying for rain against the backdrop of climate change. The article posits that praying for rain is integral to Rastafari "livity" and liturgical life. Among other pertinent questions, the study asks: What is the value Rastafarians accord to nature? How do Rastafarians pray for rain? Do they take responsibility for the environment? The research concludes that Rastafarians operate as post-20th-century Nazarenes, where prayer is a practical and tangible manifestation of work that is crucial to living harmoniously with nature. Rastafari "green philosophy" is a practical spiritual consciousness that decisively complements global efforts of shared responsibility for nature in the context of the climate change crisis.

"Let the hungry be fed, the naked clothed, the sick nourished; the aged
protected, and the infants cared for."

--The Royal Ethiopian Creed (1)

The Ethiopian, or Nyahbinghi, Creed quoted above is central in Rastafari theology, ethics, lifestyle, philosophy, and spirituality. This is fascinating in the context of how Rastafari, a religio-political and cultural movement with an Afrocentric ideological worldview, is perceived in society. Rastafari has been regarded as a "song and a riddle, a song unto the sky and a riddle unto the earth." (2) This observation by Tafari has been echoed by Yasus Afari in the Jamaican context: "This epic movement of the millennium has been grossly misunderstood, as a consequence, The RASTAFARIANS are the most exploited, underutili2ed, underdeveloped, misused and abused natural resource at the disposal of the Jamaican-Caribbean community." (3) Despite this negative rating, Rastafari identity and consciousness have gained widespread recognition. Among other things, Rastafari ital (natural) food and their environmental ethic make them a force to reckon with. In recent years, Nyahbinghi Rastafarians gathered in Marondera to pray for peace in Zimbabwe, (4) publicly demonstrating the Rastafari contribution through their peaceful and shared One Love ethos.

In spite of the prayer for peace referred to above, Rastafari is an oft-forgotten and misunderstood player among religions, one that is sometimes not taken seriously or engaged with in secular forums and inter-religious dialogues, and particularly debates dealing with climate change. It is within this context that this contribution seeks to explore a Zimbabwean Rastafari perspective on praying for rain in the framework of climate change discourse. The article posits that praying for rain is integral to Rastafari livity and liturgical life. I further argue that Rastafari "green philosophy" complements global efforts to promote shared responsibility for nature in the context of the climate change crisis. Among other pertinent questions, this contribution asks: What is the nature of prayers in Rastafari? To whom, where, how, and how often do Rastafarians pray for rain? What value does Rastafari accord nature? Do Rastafarians take responsibility for the environment? Before delving into these questions, it is important to provide the kaleidoscope of Rastafari history, beliefs, and practices.

Rastafari History, Beliefs, and Practices

In its history, the emergence of Rastafari is generally traced to the Caribbean island of Jamaica. (5) It arose partly due to the inspiration and influence of Marcus Garvey, an early-20th-century Jamaican black nationalist and evangelical preacher. (6) The original Rastafarians were largely black ex-slaves occupying the lowest strata of Jamaican society and influenced by Garvey's "Back to Africa" movement, which was meant to instil black pride. …

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