Bob Marley was born on Feb 6., and although many are familiar with the
reggae legend as a Rastafarian, others may be surprised to hear that he
was baptized as an Orthodox Christian before his death.
was an influential figure in the global expansion of a Rastafarian
religious movement through his music. The movement began in 1930s
Jamaica, focusing on the worship of former Ethiopian Emperor, Haile
Selassie I, whose followers believe him to be a messiah that will lead
them into righteousness and prosperity.
Although Marley sang and
spoken about being a Rasta, some say he converted to Christianity before
his death. Abuna Yesehaq, archbishop of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church
in the Western Hemisphere who died in 2005, admitted that he baptized
Marley about one year before his death.
Yesehaq appeared in a 1984 interview with Jamaica Gleaner's Sunday
magazine, titled "Abuna Yesehaq Looks Back on 14 Years of Ministry in
Jamaica," in which he spoke about Marley's desire to become a Christian
long before his death.
"Bob was really a good brother, a child of
God, regardless of how people looked at him," Yesehaq said. "He had a
desire to be baptized long ago, but there were people close to him who
controlled him and who were aligned to a different aspect of Rastafari.
But he came to church regularly."
In the interview, Yesehaq
addressed claims that Marley's terminal cancer was the motivation behind
his acceptance of Jesus Christ as his personal savior.
toured Los Angeles and New York and England, he preached the Orthodox
faith, and many members in those cities came to the Church because of
Bob," Yesehaq said. "Many people think he was baptized because he knew
he was dying, but that is not so. He did it when there was no longer any
pressure on him, and when he was baptized, he hugged his family and
wept, they all wept together for about half an hour."
Mowatt, a reggae and gospel singer who formerly sang backup for Marley
in the group I Threes, recalled learning about Marley's conversion to
Christianity in an interview with Cross Rhythms radio. Mowatt spoke with
her former bandmate and Marley's wife, Rita, about the late musician
calling out to Jesus Christ on his death bed.
"When Bob was on
his dying bed, his wife Rita called me on the phone and said to me that
Bob was in such excruciating pain and he stretched out his hand and
said, 'Jesus take me.' I was wondering to myself, 'Why is it that Bob
said Jesus and not Selassie,'" Mowatt questioned. "Then I met a friend
of mine and he said his sister, who is a Christian, was a nurse at the
hospital where Bob was before he passed on, and she led him to the Lord
Jesus Christ. So when Rita saw him saying 'Jesus take me,' he had
already received the Lord Jesus Christ in his life."
Bob Marley died from cancer in 1981 at the age of 36. Yesehaq conducted the rites for the musician's funeral.