“The Sale of a sacred object cannot be dismissed with the wave of a hand as a mere commercial transaction”
Philip J. Breeden, US Embassy, Paris; quoted in NY Times 6-30-2014.
The ancient carved cottonwood mask, decorated with eagle feathers and earthen pigment paint stares blankly at an observer from a shelf in a Paris auction house. The display counter is cluttered with Hopi pottery, kachina figures and sacred altar decorations once hidden in the protective darkness of a kiva.
As I studied the photograph in the New York Times article, I imagined other sacred items that could be on another shelf: a silver pyxis containing hosts of the blessed body of Christ; a treasured Torah scroll from Jerusalem; a hand copied Quran from Kufa, Iraq; a revered scroll of the Rig Veda from India; and a Tibetan Buddhist Sutra from a monastery high in the Himalayas. I…