“BACK in March, I reported on a landmark German court verdict which brought a dose of reassuring balm to Cyprus, just as the pain of the island’s financial crisis was starting to throb. A judge in Munich affirmed that over 170 objects of religious art, looted from ancient places of worship after the island’s summer of war in 1974, should return to their proper owners, the churches of Cyprus. They had been languishing in a Bavarian police vault, amid arcane legal wrangles, since their recovery in a dramatic sting operation 16 years ago.
This week brought another step forward for countries that are trying to recover pieces of their religious and cultural heritage that have been grabbed as a result of war, occupation or anarchy. Half a century after the conclusion of a UN convention against the looting and trafficking of art objects in occupied areas, and nearly two decades after the objects’ ownership was first disputed, the Dutch government has agreed to return to Cyprus four icons from the Antiphonitis church, a lovely medieval building in a fold of land overlooking the north coast of the island.”