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AFROMET - The Association for the Return of The Maqdala Ethiopian TreasuresDetail from the amulet of Emperor Tewodros
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Petition sent to Westminster Abbey

Petition 17 July 07


PETITION IN SUPPORT OF THE CAMPAIGN FOR THE RETURN OF ETHIOPIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH 'TABOT' - HOLY ALTAR SLAB, ON THE OCCASION OF THE COMING ETHIOPIAN MILLENNIUM

Rev John Hall
Dean of Westminster
Westminster Abbey
London

Ethiopia is on the eve of the new Millennium starting this coming September 2007. This is a perfect time to take courageous steps and return Ethiopia's historical artifacts. We orthodox Christians, Ethiopian citizens of Britain and their supporters are asking Westminster Abbey to return the 'Tabot' or Holy Altar Slab in its possession to Ethiopia and to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.

It is widely known that the religious artifact in the possession of Westminster Abbey came to The United Kingdom almost 140 years ago following the British expedition against Emperor Theodros of Ethiopia in 1867-68. The looting of the Emperor's Citadel Maqdala required fifteen elephants and 200 mules to carry it away. These included several ancient manuscripts, Ethiopian crowns, 'Tabots - Holy Altar Slabs - golden church crowns, gold chalices and processional crosses. A testimony of Sir Richard Holmes, "Archaeologist" to the expedition and Assistant Curator in the British Museum's Department of Manuscripts, states:

... while night was falling, he met a British soldier who was carrying the golden crown of the Abun, or head of the Ethiopian church, and a "solid gold chalice" weighing "at least 6 lb".

As the great British leader William Gladstone said in 1871, the looting and possession of these Ethiopian antiquities has no justification and is unlawful. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church artifact at Westminster Abbey has no religious, historical or cultural significance to us here in the UK and little is known about its presence. However, to Ethiopians, it is emotionally significant and an invaluable symbol of their religion, rich history and culture. It is their lawful heritage and they deserve to see it returned to appreciate the religious and cultural heritage of their ancestors.

There were attempts to return some of the articles to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. A noted example is that by St. John's Church in Edinburgh in 2002. On the occasion of this restitution The Rev John McLuckie noted:

For the community of St. John's, the repatriation of the Tabot can be for us the chance to meet Christian brothers and sisters from another tradition and express something of that hope for an alternative world order of partnership. It is also an opportunity for penitence for an act of desecration committed in the name of our nation ...

Demands for restitution have been made in more recent years by the Association for the Return of Ethiopian Maqdala Treasures (AFROMET) which is based in both Ethiopia and Britain. International justice requires all looted Ethiopian antiquities be returned to Ethiopia. The return of Maqdala's looted symbolic treasures is an act of justice and solidarity and contributes to a common goal of building a more just global order through partnership.

The Ethiopian Millennium provides a perfect opportunity and our wish for the Ethiopian Millennium is that Westminster Abbey should, without delay, demonstrate Christian brotherhood and return the Ethiopian Orthodox Church 'Tabot' to Ethiopia and to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.

Yours Sincerely,

Orthodox Christians, Ethiopian citizens of Britain and their supporters

Dr Berhanu Kassayie

LINKS TO RELATED CORRESPONDENCE

Dr Berhanu Kassayie replies to Westminster Abbey - Oct 11 (PDF)
Westminster Abbey relies to Dr Berhanu Kassayie - Aug 29 (Word)

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