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Why Rema’s ‘burning church’ themed Ethiopian gig went up in flames

Nigerian afrobeats sensation, Divine Ikubor, widely known as Rema, found himself at the center of a religious storm as his Ethiopian concert faced an abrupt cancellation due to allegations that his ‘Burning Church’ necklace was linked to devil worship.

Scheduled to captivate fans in Addis Ababa on September 9, 2023, Rema’s highly-anticipated concert encountered an unexpected roadblock orchestrated by the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church.

The church, alarmed by the controversial artwork on Rema’s custom necklace, applied pressure on the management of the Sheraton Hotel, leading to the event’s cancellation.

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At the heart of the dispute lay the symbols adorning Rema’s necklace, with a particular focus on the depiction of a burning church.

This imagery, both in his jewellery and as a backdrop for his performances, ignited a firestorm of controversy as it was perceived as deeply disrespectful and offensive by a significant portion of the Ethiopian population.

The use of burning churches and inverted crosses in Rema’s aesthetic choices did not sit well with many Ethiopians, who saw these symbols as a potential endorsement of sacrilegious practices. The public outcry was deafening, and condemnation swiftly followed suit.

In response to the mounting pressure from various quarters, the management of Sheraton Hotel in Addis Ababa made the painful decision to cancel Rema’s concert.

The decision was conveyed through a statement in which the hotel management expressed profound regret for any offense that the singer’s planned performance may have inadvertently caused.

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Furthermore, the statement underscored the hotel’s deep respect for Ethiopian culture, history, and religious values.

This gesture was intended to reassure the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church and the concerned citizens that their faith and traditions were of utmost importance and would not be compromised for the sake of entertainment.

Rema, who is known for his energetic performances and unique style, has yet to respond publicly to the cancellation of his Ethiopian concert. Whether he will issue an apology or clarify the intent behind the controversial imagery featured in his necklace and performances remains uncertain.

In the aftermath of this cancellation, Rema’s fans and the wider entertainment industry will undoubtedly be watching closely to see how this incident impacts his career and whether he will take steps to reconcile with his Ethiopian audience.

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