U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia
at the Memorandum of Understanding
Grant Signing Ceremony
for the Preservation of Yemerhanna Christos Church
Friday, February 12, 2016
U.S. Embassy Addis Ababa
(As prepared for delivery)
His Holiness Abba Matias
Patriarch of Ethiopia, Archbishop of Axum, Etchegue of the See of Saint Tekle Haimanot
H.E. Engineer Aiysha Mohammed
Minister for Ministry of Culture and Tourism
I would like to start by welcoming all to this signing ceremony and would like to thank you all on behalf the US government and people. I am proud that our proposal to contribute to the preservation of the 12th century cave church Yemrehanna Kristos won an Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation Award this year. I would like to congratulate the Authority for Research and Conservation of Cultural Heritage and the World Monuments Fund for working with the U.S. Embassy to secure this funding, a grant in the amount of $150,000.00.
The Church of Yemrehanna Kristos is amongst the most important and impressive heritage sites in Ethiopia. I have visited Yemrehanna Kristos in October 2015. Although the building has been protected and sheltered by a cave, and is in relatively good condition for a structure of its age, a number of serious problems are evident and deserve to be studied.
This grant will help carry out that study by doing a needs assessment for the preservation of Yemrehanna Kristos, an important historical landmark for the people of Ethiopia, and of the world. Lalibela in general and Yemrehanna Kristos, in particular, play an increasingly important role in Ethiopia’s economy. Tourism is now a major economic sector in Ethiopia.
The Ethiopian government has identified tourism as one of the focal sectors in its second five-year development plan, with the objective of propelling Ethiopia into sub-Saharan Africa’s top 10 tourist destinations by 2020. The goal is to maximise the poverty-reduction aspects of tourism development and transform the perception of the country from one associated with famine and conflict to an image of a culturally diverse, modern state welcoming visitors and internal investment. Culture is the main driver of tourism in Ethiopia, according to the World Bank, and most visitors take the ‘northern historic route’, which encompasses Axum, Gondar and Lalibela. In this respect, Lalibela and Yemrehanna Kristos are of huge significance for the economic development of the country.
My government’s support for the restoration of Yemrehanna Kristos demonstrates our respect for the cultural heritage of the people of Ethiopia. I strongly believe that this project will draw attention to the recognition by the people of the United States of America of a site which is not only a part of Ethiopia’s national historic heritage, but also a symbol of Ethiopian civilization dating from the 11th and 12th centuries.
I would like to express again my deepest appreciation to all who worked on this project, and would like to assure you the Embassy’s good wishes and support as you approach the project. I look forward to learning more about the progress and success of the project as it is carried out.