ETHIOPIA: Ancient holy book returned

ADDIS ABABA, 6 October (IRIN) – A holy book looted from Ethiopia by British troops more than a century ago was back home and on public display for the first time on Saturday.

Professor Richard Pankhurst, who campaigns for the return of treasure to Ethiopia, returned the 300-year-old handwritten Book of Psalms to the country last week.

The book, which is written in the old Ethiopian language of Ge’ez, was part of a huge haul taken by British troops after the Battle of Maqdala in 1868. British troops invaded in December 1867 to free a number of diplomats and missionaries imprisoned by Emperor Tewodros II following a dispute with the British government. Tewodros committed suicide, rather than be captured by the British.

“This looting was sacrilege in as much as it was looted from a church,” said Pankhurst, vice chairman of the Association for the Return of Maqdala Ethiopian Treasures (AFROMET).

“If the American troops in the recent war in Iraq had started looting mosques and taking things the world would have been outraged,” he added.

The biblical Book of Psalms – for which AFROMET paid 750 pounds sterling to a private collector – is now on display at the Institute of Ethiopian Studies (IES) in the capital Addis Ababa.

Getachew Kassa who is in charge of the institute said he was “delighted” at its return. He said the document was vital for academic research.


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