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12 August 2021

To: United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)

Paris, France

Re: Expression of Concern about Lalibela Churches

We are Ethiopians and European citizens of Ethiopian origin residing in many European countries, organized as members of the European branch of the global Defend Ethiopia Task Force (https://defendethiopia.com/about/).

We are writing this letter firstly, to express our gratitude for your prompt expression of serious concern about the fate of the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela after the area was taken over by fighters of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). Secondly, to urge you to keep seized of the matter until peace prevails in the region of the World Heritage site.

These 12th-century churches of Lalibela are one of Christendom’s greatest cultural and religious treasures and places of pilgrimage and worship for adherents of the Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity. For centuries, these sites were places devotion, worship and peaceful contemplation for Orthodox Christians worldwide, making the expansion of the violence and conflict to the place the height act of irresponsibility by the TPLF.

The spread of the conflict into the region shook us profoundly because, as one Ethiopia’s holiest sites, we had assumed that the churches and the surrounding area would remain uncontested by any of the belligerents. Our primary concern now is that, as the occupation and fighting continues, the unique churches will risk damage and the looting of invaluable artifacts will be a possibility. We are also concerned in addition that any permanent damage or looting of this revered site is likely to plant an enduring animosity between communities, which is contrary to the ideals of the holy place.

Therefore, as a responsible organization for the “dissemination and monitoring of compliance” the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, we appeal to UNESCO to insist on the withdrawal of the invading force without violence or fight and help rally the international community to swiftly act so that the Lalibela site remains a conflict-free zone.


The Defend Ethiopia Task Force in Europe Steering Group organized in Belgium, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom

Email: ChairPerson@DefendEthiopia.com

Website: DefendEthiopia.com