Spiritual Outlook

Sunday, 21 September 2014
The Divinity of Haile Selassie

How did the Ethiopian King, Haile Selassie – who lived a life of luxury whilst his country suffered a deep famine – become the God for the Rastafari community?

To millions he was a leader, to many others he was an oppressor, but to a small worldwide community known as the Rastafari he is divine and the reincarnation of Jesus Christ. Now forty years after Haile Selassie was deposed as leader of Ethiopia, Dr Robert Beckford explores the religious, political and social dynamic that propelled a whole community to worship Selassie as a living God.

He investigates the controversy in Ethiopia about Salassie’s Godly status and, as the Rastafari community grapples with falling numbers, Beckford meets the man trying to re-energise the religion and campaigning to have Selassie made a saint in the Ethiopian Church. But for many Rastafarians, bestowing sainthood on their spiritual leader won’t change anything. He is, to them, simply the messiah. But how did this adoration come to be?

See the BBC website for more information on this programme.