Bishop of Worcester asks about returning ancient sacred tabots held in the British Museum to Ethiopia

On 30th March 2022 the Bishop of Worcester asked a question in support of returning ancient sacred tabots held in the British Museum to Ethiopia.

The Lord Bishop of Worcester: My Lords, apart from the way in which these artefacts were obtained, and the responsibility of the British Museum and its independence, I wonder whether the Minister would agree that what sets these artefacts apart, as he has intimated, from any others in the British Museum and other museums across our land, is that they are sacred. As such, they relate to a living faith—the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. Whereas these tabots mean very little to anyone here except as stones of limited historical value, and no one is able to see them anyway, they are of profound religious significance in Ethiopia. Would not the Minister agree that they should therefore be returned to those who understand them to be holy and will cherish them as such?

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay: The right reverend Prelate is right that these items remain of enduring importance to people, and the British Museum is very sensitively discussing those matters with the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, so that those sensitivities can be understood and reflected and so that the future of the items can be discussed appropriately. The past may be distant, but it remains around us, and the issues of sensitivity and importance are of course considered very carefully by the British Museum and all other cultural institutions.


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