About 500 rastas in the country have left for Kitwe, Zambia to launch a church as part of this year’s commemorations of the birthday of Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie I.
The Rastas believe that Selassie is the messiah who was born on July 23 1892.
Locally, the celebrations will be held at Geisha in Mzuzu and Chileka in Blantyre from July 19 to 25.
In an interview, an elder in the national council of the Rastafari movement, Ras Bulukutu Chirwa, said they will hold prayers and teachings in Zambia for seven days.
“Rastas in Zambia are not organised. So, we want to launch the movement and make sure that they are organised as is the case in other countries in southern Africa.
“During those seven days, we will be teaching new members who don’t know Haile Selassie I and for old members to continue believing in him,” he said.
Bulukutu said the crusade also wants to change the mentality that people have on Rastas.
“Our reputation is not good out there because people associate us with chamba only. But the truth is that we are spiritual beings who follow the teachings of Haile Selassie I,” he said.
Bulukutu said such a perception has led to segregation of Rastafari movement members. He said, as an example, their children continue facing resistance to attend public schools in dreadlocks.
He said his church is also not invited to discuss socio-economic issues in national religious meetings.
“We are sidelined in various national issues although we are registered. Our children in dreadlocks are denied their right to education.
“Even when the President is meeting religious leaders, we are not invited to represent our members,” he bemoaned.
Bulukutu said they plan to discuss these issues in Zambia and map the way forward on how best to address them, including a proposal to report such discriminatory tendencies to the African Union (AU).
He said the plan was to plant churches in various countries first before engaging AU.
So far, the rastas have successfully launched churches in Mozambique’, Namibia, Tanzania, Burundi and Malawi, according to Bulukutu.