On Jan. 9, the Europe External Programme with Africa reported that at least 750 were reportedly killed after an attack by Ethiopian federal troops and Amhara militia on the oriental Orthodox Church of Our Lady Mary of Zion in Axum, Ethiopia. Since the area is sealed off from journalists, reports are just now coming to light. Up to 1,000 people had taken refuge inside the church but were dragged out and murdered.
One of the church’s chapels is called the Chapel of the Tablet because it is believed by Ethiopian Christians to contain the Ark of the Covenant. Ethiopian Orthodox Christians believe the Ark was hidden in Aksum by Menelik I, the son of King Solomon of Israel. The ark is hidden from the view of everyone, apart from a single priest who never leaves the compound. The Guardian, as his title implies, must protect the Ark and is prohibited from leaving the grounds.
It is thought the ark had been hidden and was undamaged in the attack.
The theory that the ark in the Ethiopian church is in fact the Ark of the Covenant from Solomon’s Temple was advanced by Bob Cornuke, a former police investigator who is a Christian non-archaeologist.
The Ethiopian Church places a heavier emphasis on Old Testament teachings than is usually found in Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic or Protestant churches, and its followers adhere to certain practices that one finds in Judaism. Ethiopian Christians traditionally follow dietary rules that are similar to Jewish Kashrut, specifically with regard to the slaughter of animals. Similarly, pork is prohibited. They also perform male circumcision.
Tigray has been the site of the Tigray War since November of last year.