Guest / Limited Access /

The return to Ethiopia of a 400-year-old tabot, a sacred replica of the Ark of the Covenant, sparked celebrations in the traditionally Orthodox nation on the Horn of Africa in February. It also rekindled hopes that public opinion will force British leaders to return hundreds of sacred items plundered in 1868.

"These treasures are some of the most important items in Ethiopian history," Endrias Eshete, chairman of the Association for the Return of Magdala Ethiopian Treasures (AFROMET), said. He said Britain's refusal to hand over the treasures "would be the equivalent of Ethiopia refusing to hand over the British crown jewels."

British forces attacked the Ethiopian capital of Magdala in 1868. Victorious soldiers and officers looted more than 400 priceless artifacts from Orthodox churches, including many carved wooden tabots, which are about six inches square and modeled after the biblical Ark of the Covenant. According to Ethiopian tradition, the Ethiopian Queen of Sheba bore a son whose father was King Solomon. The son swapped the Ark with a full-size replica and brought it home after a visit to the Jerusalem temple, the legend says. The Orthodox believe that the Ark remains there, under Orthodox protection, to this day (CT, June 14, 1999, p. 58).

Italian soldiers looted Ethiopia's tallest obelisk from Axum in 1937. More than 1,700 years old, the obelisk stills occupies a prominent spot in Rome. Italian officials have so far reneged on two promises to return the 79-foot, 200-ton piece of granite.

February's raucous celebration over the tabot on the streets of Addis Ababa briefly moved the Ethiopian Orthodox Church (EOC) back to center stage in Ethiopia's national life. The EOC, once the state church, now claims 57 percent of ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

From Issue:
Read These NextSee Our Latest
RecommendedEbola Enters America (Safely) as Missionaries Evacuate Liberia
Ebola Enters America (Safely) as Missionaries Evacuate Liberia
Amid worst-ever outbreak of deadly virus, infected SIM worker will be taken to Atlanta tomorrow, joining infected Samaritan's Purse doctor.
TrendingWorship Songwriter Vicky Beeching Comes Out as Gay
Worship Songwriter Vicky Beeching Comes Out as Gay
The CCM worship world has its Jennifer Knapp moment.
Editor's PickI Was Saved at Open Communion
I Was Saved at Open Communion
Having the choice of taking Communion made it clear to me that I was hungry for Christ.
Comments
Christianity Today
Ethiopia: Returning a Tabot
hide thisApril 22 April 22

In the Magazine

April 22, 2002

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.