Catholic Commission on Racial Justice – Seven Recommendations (1982)

The Catholic Commission on Racial Justice issued a report in 1982 on the injustices suffered by Rastafari.

1 .Rastafarianism should be recognized as a valid religion, and the members and leaders of other religious groups should attempt to engage the proponents of Rastafarianism in dialogue with a view to mutual learning and sharing.

2. Christians and Christian churches should take whatever opportunities they may have or are able to create to relate to Rastafarians as they would to the believers of other non-christian faiths. For instance, Rastafarians often lack places to meet, and Christian churches could consider allowing Rastafarians to use their premises.

3. The Christian churches and other religious groups should exercise appropriate influence over their own institutions (for example, schools, children’s homes etc) so that they might relate to the members of the Rastafarian movement with true knowledge and sound understanding rather than with an attitude born of fear, ignorance, and prejudice.

4. Rastafarian styles of dress (for example, locks and head-dress) should be accepted as authentic religious expressions and legitimate cultural forms.

5. The Home Office should use its influence to ensure that penal institutions have regard for these legitimate forms, etc.

6. All authority figures should scrupulously avoid any form of harassment and discrimination against Rastafarians. It is especially important that professional workers such as teachers, social workers, police and prison and probation officers should be sensitive to the tendency to stereotype black people, in general, and Rastafarians, in particular.

7. Social and community work agencies should take positive steps to serve a multiracial, multicultural society and in so doing recognize the importance of learning from and correctly representing the variety of culturally based views and practices. Rastafarians should be in a genuine position of not only obtaining effective help but also giving it.


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In Barbados the Rastafari community is reading itself to take the government to court for the right to use cannabis legally for their sacrament. An article in a Bahamian newspaper “The Tribune” titled ” Rastafarians Plan To Sue For Religious Use Of Marijuana” dated June 14th 2019, reported that “LEGAL action from the Rastafarian community may speed up the government’s track on cannabis reform as one group has announced plans to sue for religious use. Barbados Rastafari is not alone in their quest for cannabis justice.

In the Bahamas The Bobo Ashanti – formally known as the Ethiopia Africa Black International Congress (EABIC) – have given the government 10 days to indicate a willingness to grant a licence for the cultivation, possession and supply of Indian hemp or face a lawsuit on the grounds that a refusal breaches their constitutional right to religious freedom. The letter argues that Roman Catholic and Anglican churches are allowed to give alcohol to confirmed minors as a religious sacrament while Rastafarians are criminalized”.


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Another article dated July 11th reported:


  1. An overriding concern among faith leaders was that the community be placed at the forefront of national discussions on marijuana law reform and commerce as it has led agitation over liberalization of the plant for decades.“We are the vanguard,” said Elder Peter Sheffield, of House of Nyabinghi. “We are the one with the stigma, who have been persecuted for herb, couldn’t get jobs, banned from society. Right now it is coming to a closure on this but it’s like they pushing us aside and saying they don’t recognize the Rasta. We smoked it straight through so it’s too complicated. It’s a way of life for us, it’s nothing to do with recreational or medicinal or how they glorifying it. “I’m almost 60 and they still have me as a criminal from 1985. I’m looking for even compensation from the government and all. It’s been too long they’ve hold us back, our families got held back because we are Rasta. Separation of families because we’re going to jail. We look at it as a personal thing, leave it alone and let us be. This is my sacrament, we use it in our tabernacle.”

  2. Although Rastafarianism has no singular hierarchical structure, there are distinct sects commonly referred to as         “mansions”. The two groups said to have the largest presence in the Bahamas are the House of Nyabinghi and the       EABIC. Prominent study groups include the King of Kings Missionary Movement and the ASFAW, African Sisters      for all Women.

3. “(Cannabis) it’s part of our rituals, our celebrations and our service,” Priest McKinney said, “so it was something         always been a part of Rastafarianism from conception. We have always used it as a sacrament. From I become a           Rastafarian over 30 years ago it was big stigma on us. Something they used to castrate us, oppress us, all negative       things toward us they used marijuana. They called it dope, then called us drug dealers. We been oppressed over           the years because we know this is a natural plant, this is our sacrament and we use it as part of our service and we       continued using it. We never stopped although we went through all the oppression.

 4. “We as a church,” Priest McKinney continued, “we are in talks with the government now concerning our                        sacramental rights, making them more aware of sacramental rights. We want sacramental/medicinal use so we           will be able to make our products for use external or internal, and to be able to achieve revenue also from our               products.

 5.“Our culture, well-being, and spirituality has been interrupted by first, the colonial powers. Slavery is the biggest         interruption of our civilization. Rastafari members were then hunted by the neo-colonial authorities and our                service sacrilegiously interrupted, and sometimes our camps burned down, and our women are sometimes being        violated by officers and it’s a number of things.

 6.“We are being eclipsed by those snakes and vultures that are coming up now and everybody’s seeking to benefit          from our pain and suffering,” he added. “We suffered under the criminalization of marijuana more than any other      social group in the Bahamas and if it is to be legalized, I think that there should be a pardon issued to the group on      behalf of the government of the Bahamas – simply because it’s the government who would be seeking to benefit.”

 7.Priest Blyden noted there has also been a paradigm shift within the Rastafarian community with groups moving          from isolationist to more engagement with the wider public He said despite the use of Rastafarian culture like Ital      food and health practices becoming more mainstream, the groups have not been recognized as pioneers and                thought leaders for social change.

 8.“We are still being pushed back and our message is being suppressed and eclipsed by all of this sensationalism              of medical marijuana and CARICOM reports, reparations, and yet we are the leaders in all of these fields,” Priest        Blyden said. CARCOM’s report released last week suggested expunging criminal records to remedy past                        injustices  as it called for its declassification as a dangerous drug. The commission recommended marijuana is              decriminalized for personal use in private premises and medical purposes before being fully legalized.

 9. Priest Jevon Thompson, EABIC, explained the absence of a standardized policy for the community has left its               membership to battle legal challenges over their sacrament on an individual level with varied success. Priest                 Thompson said he has successfully defended his rights in court but the community was currently engaged in                 raising funds to assist with legal costs of an incarcerated member.

10. Priest Thompson expressed optimism that liberalization will affect a lessening of the discriminatory practices               but only if Rastafarians are included in the debate.

 11. “The public needs to have an understanding of the debate,” he said, “what we have come to understand is what             we were taught about marijuana was wrong. We were taught lies and propaganda, the public has to recognize               that wasn’t the truth. “Learn the truth, accept the truth,” Priest Thompson added, “and I think it will take some           of the stigma from us. We would be more recognized because we are like shrouded in mystery.”


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Locally “The Order of the Nyabinghi Theocracy Reign” is properly calling for the legalization of Cannabis in Barbados. “We believe that full legalization with control over growth, quality and distribution is the better means of minimizing any unease presumed associated with Cannabis emancipation. We also believe that other benefits, such as added revenue, reduced expenditure on law enforcement, decoupling of Cannabis from regional Drug statutes, would be advantages to the systems over partial decriminalization. Although full legalization may entail renegotiation’s of or withdrawal from the Multiple Narco-psycho tropic substances conventions of 1961, 1971, 1988 respectively, we believe that in terms of Article 23 and 28 of the former convention, controlled cultivation of Cannabis may in fact not be in conflict.” Ivine Order of the Nyabinghi Theocracy Reign

It is the profound desire of the order of the Nyabinghi Theocracy Reign, that the matter of the legalization of cannabis for sacramental use by Rastafari does not reach the courts of law. The Order of the Nyabinghi Theocracy Reign is resolved in its position that the sacramental use of cannabis for recreational use by Rastafari cannot be determined by a public referendum. As such if the government is intent on pursuing a referendum that amalgamates sacrament with recreation, no option is left but to challenge the government in the courts of law for our human rights as it pertains to our religious freedom.

Article compiled by Simba Simba – Cannabis Criminal by order of the BLP 2019


Author: Admin

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