King Charles under pressure to return Ark of Covenant holy tablet to Ethiopia

King Charles III is under pressure to return a holy tablet that symbolises the Ark of the Covenant back to Ethiopia.

The tabot, which is currently housed in Westminster Abbey, was stolen in the Battle of Magdala in 1868, when British troops attacked the forces of Emperor Tewodros II.

The Ethiopian Orthodox Church believes a tabot is a holy tablet that symbolically represents the Ark of the Covenant, which is two stone tablets of the Ten Commandments, according to the Book of Exodus.

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George Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury from 1991 to 2002, said that he is “astonished and saddened” that Westminster Abbey has so far refused to return the sacred tabot to Ethiopia.

Because Westminster Abbey is a Royal Peculiar, which puts it directly under the monarch’s jurisdiction, the return of the tabot to Ethiopia may require the blessing of the monarch, King Charles III, who reigns as the supreme governor of the Church of England.

The Ethiopian Church has a strict belief that tabots should only be seen by priests which is why the Abbey added a covering in front of the tabot in 2010, so it is no longer visible behind the altar.

An Abbey spokesperson spoke on the issue last month and said that “there are no current plans [for its return], but the future of the tabot is kept under review”.

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Mr Carey further expressed his view on the subject and admitted that he is disturbed that the Church of England “has not returned a sacred object belonging to another faith and country”.

The British Museum has the largest UK collection of tabots, holding 11 of them which are kept in an underground store.

Returning Heritage, a group that seeks solutions to cultural restitution, submitted a Freedom of Information request to the British Museum last month, asking for details of claims for the tabots since 1990.


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