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When 'Jah' reference was declared devil worship in schools

Vector illustration set of six Rastafarian-related elements. [iStockphoto]

The 1994 presidential inquiry into the state of devil worship declared students’ infatuation with “Jah” references as devil worship.

The Commission of Inquiry chaired by the then Catholic Archbishop Nicodemus Kirima was astonished at the widespread use of the term, popular among Rastafarians, in schools and learning institutions.

The term is deduced from Israelites' ancient reference to God, and appears numerous times in Hebrew Bible. However, in the King James Version, the term Jah appears only once, in Psalms 68:4.

“Sing unto God, sing praises to his name: extol him that rideth upon the heavens by his name JAH, and rejoice before him.”

In the Rastafarian culture, the term- sometimes used in double, Jah Jah- is used to refer to Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia whom they believe was Jesus Christ reincarnate.

“The common feature was the inscription of the words Jah or Jah worship by students on their exercise books, clothes and even school buildings,” the devil worship report stated.

In some schools, some students declared they worshipped Jah while in others they christened some buildings Jah temple.

The commission unveiled some of the symbols they believed were associated with devil worship, among them the inverted cross and the Egyptian ankh, also popular among Rastafarians.

The commission claimed senior students, Form Three’s and Form Fours were the main agents of recruiting their junior colleagues in the cult. They added beautiful girls, handsome men, children from rich families and matatu touts to this list of Satanic agents.

The report was laughed off in some quarters, with a Nairobi lawyer G.K Waruhiu describing it as “a national shame and masterpiece of mediocrity, uninformed pretensions and misplaced self-righteousness.”

“It is highly defamatory, scandalous and poorly presented, full of clichés and empty statements which were not properly researched, and in which in the final analysis amount to a new-fangled Kenyan Spanish Inquisition or simple witch-hunting,” the lawyer wrote in the Daily Nation at the time.

Columnist Philip Ochieng claimed President Daniel Moi was simply caressing the Christian priesthood by granting them the opportunity to reaffirm that the worship of anything other than the Christian God was devil worship.

“The president is well known for populist tactics. He is also keenly aware that Christian priests are too easy to flatter. But there is no religion anywhere which is so intolerable of another cultic and liturgical system. Anything which runs athwart any Christian dogma automatically belongs to the devil,” he wrote.