Ethiopian priests want stolen crown returned to their church

The priests in a church in northern Ethiopia have demanded that a ceremonial 18th Century crown, that has resurfaced in Europe after being taken from the building 24 years ago, is returned to them rather than go on display in the capital, Addis Ababa.

The crown is thought to be one of just 20 in existence. It has depictions of Jesus Christ, God and the Holy Spirit, as well as Jesus’ disciples, and was probably given to the church, Debre Medhanit Slase Cheleqo, by feudal lord Ras Weldeselassie hundreds of years ago.

It had been hidden in a flat in the Netherlands for the past two decades.

Ethiopian Sirak Asfaw, who fled to the Netherlands in the late 1970s, discovered the crown in the suitcase of a visitor and realised it was stolen.

But this month he said it was now safe to return it to Ethiopia.

Aba Gebreslassie, who has lived as a monk in the church for 16 years, wants to make sure the crown returns. Image copyright: BBC

The question is where should it go?

The church priests told BBC Tigrinya that they want it back in its rightful place rather than being put in a museum in Addis Ababa.

But so far no date has been set for the return of the crown, and nor are there any clear plans about what should happen to it once it goes back home.

Earlier this month Sirak Asfaw, seen on the left with the crown, said he was waiting for the Ethiopian government to get in touch. Image copyright: AFP

Main image copyright: BBC

Written by: Girmay Gebru

First published 16.10.19:

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