A region of six million inhabitants, Tigray, a secessionist state in northern Ethiopia, has been ravaged since November 2020 by a bloody civil war. While the humanitarian disaster is being denounced by various NGOs, they speak less of the annihilation of a whole section of Christian civilization.
The British daily The Times, in its February 8, 2022 edition, allows Hagos Abraha Abay to speak. This Ethiopian philologist has turned into a whistleblower, in order to make the West aware of what is happening in his home country.
For several months, in fact, numerous works of art and Christian manuscripts of great value have appeared on the world's most famous online sales sites, testifying to the systematic looting in this part of the Horn of Africa.
Thus, the scientist discovered with amazement a Bible in Ge'ez language illuminated by hand on velum, priced at 650 pounds sterling, while other extremely rare copies of the Holy Scriptures were offered in their wooden box for 1,600 or 2,000 pounds.
This is not even to mention Christian jewelry, such as these small Coptic crosses to wear as a necklace, for 200 or even 50 pounds.
Admittedly, the trafficking of Ethiopian antiquities predates the war, but it has been established, according to Hagos Abraha Abay, that Eritrean soldiers took advantage of the sacking of the sacred city of Aksum and the monastery of Maryam Dengelet during the month of November 2020, to get hold of the oldest vestiges of Tigrayan Christianity.
Hagos Abraha Abay, who alerted the British newspaper, is particularly worried about the extraordinary “Gospel of Garima,” one of the most precious treasures of Christianity, which could date back to the very first centuries of the Christian era and which, to date, has not been located.
Lord David Alton, a Catholic involved in several charities, does not have words strong enough to describe the situation: “one part of the people is massacred, the rest are starved, and their heritage is plundered in order to erase an entire culture,” writes the British parliamentarian, in a tweet of February 11.
The evangelization of Ethiopia dates from the first centuries of Christianity – perhaps from the conversion of the eunuch of Queen Candace mentioned by St. Luke in the Acts of the Apostles.
It took off especially in the following centuries, thanks to the arrival of missionaries from the Middle East, the most famous of which are the Nine Syrian Saints, considered as the true founders of the Ethiopian Church. The latter unfortunately separated from the Roman unity during the Monophysite quarrel in the 5th century.
Part of this Church, attached to Rome for several decades, was erected as an Apostolic Exarchate of the Ethiopian rite in 1951. An Ethiopian ecclesiastical province was founded in 1961, with Addis Ababa as its seat.