Haile Selassie  

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"And until the ignoble and unhappy regimes that hold our brothers in Angola, in Mozambique and in South Africa in subhuman bondage have been toppled and destroyed; Until bigotry and prejudice and malicious and inhuman self-interest have been replaced by understanding and tolerance and good-will; Until all Africans stand and speak as free beings, equal in the eyes of all men, as they are in the eyes of Heaven; Until that day, the African continent will not know peace."--"War"

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Haile Selassie (1892 – 1975) was Emperor of Ethiopia from 1916 to 1974.

He is a religious symbol in the Rastafarian movement.

Haile Selassie in Rastafari

Amongst followers of the Rastafarian movement, a religion which developed in the 1930s in Jamaica under the influence of Marcus Mosiah Garvey's "Back to Africa" movement, Haile Selassie is seen as God, the Black messiah who will lead the peoples of Africa and the African diaspora to freedom. Most Rastafarians believe that Haile Selassie is still alive, and that his widely reported death was part of a conspiracy to discredit their religion.

The state visit of Selassie to Jamaica, during which the Emperor was greeted by 100,000 stoned, drumming Rastas, was reportedly quite unsettling for the monarch. He took one look at the crowds and refused to leave the plane for an hour, until persuaded to do so by Mortimer Planner, a Rasta elder. It was during this visit that Selassie famously told the Rastafarian community leaders that they should not emigrate to Ethiopia until they had liberated the people of Jamaica. After the visit, the Emperor is said to have told Ethiopian Orthodox Archbishop Abuna Yesehaq: "There is a problem in Jamaica.... Please, help these people. They are misunderstanding, they do not understand our culture.... They need a church to be established and you are chosen to go." In the light of the deep longing of Rastafarians to return to Africa he donated a piece of land at Shashamane, 250 km south of Addis Ababa for the use of Jamaican Rastafarians. There is still a community there. He is also reported to have said that he did not want to disturb the faith of the Rastas. He remained a devout member of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church his entire life.

It is almost certain that more people have now heard of Haile Selassie through the Rastafarian movement than know of him as a historical or political figure, a situation likely to continue. Many of them are very concerned that the world should see Haile Selassie in a positive light.

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