Ethiopia: Unesco, the monolithic churches of Lalibela at risk

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Unesco denounces the risk of serious damage to the churches carved into the rock in the city of Lalibela in northern Ethiopia, inscribed on the world heritage list since 1978, due to the fighting that has escalated in the country. The monolithic, rock-hewn churches are the destination of continuous pilgrimages to Lalibela, one of the holiest cities in Ethiopia, second only to Axum. ” Lalibela is a place of pilgrimage, devotion and peace – underlines UNESCO – it must not be a place of incitement to violence and conflict ”. The 11 medieval monolithic rock churches of this 13th century “New Jerusalem” are located in a mountainous region in the heart of Ethiopia near a traditional village with circular dwellings and are named after the late 12th century Gebrian king Mesqel Lalibela. of the early 13th century of the Zagwe dynasty, who commissioned the massive project of building the rock-hewn churches to recreate the holy city of Jerusalem in his kingdom.
The site still remains in use by the Ethiopian Orthodox Christian Church today and remains an important pilgrimage site for the Ethiopian Orthodox faithful. Therefore, UNESCO calls for compliance with all relevant obligations under international law in guaranteeing the protection of the exceptional universal value and heritage of this precious site by refraining from any act that could expose it to damage and taking all necessary precautions to prevent any attempt to loot the cultural assets located in the area. ‘.