Speaking at an event at the Victoria & Albert Museum, Matthew has joined a call to protect cultural heritage at risk from conflict.
Since the beginning of human history, cultural heritage has been affected by conflict. In the modern age, buildings and monuments are subject to collateral damage while artwork and artefacts are traditionally looted. The most well-known examples of cultural heritage being purposefully targeted occurring during the Second World War when the Nazis systematically looted cultural artifacts across Europe.
As Chairman of the APPG on Explosive Threats, Matthew was invited to speak at the seminar entitled "Heritage Under Attack: The impact on Post Conflict Reconstruction in the Middle East". Matthew joined panel of experts including Dr Bill Finlayson from Oxford University, Ella Ravilious and Dr Omniya Abdel Bar from the V&A, and Nigel Ellway from the NGO Revive.
Matthew highlighted the need for politicians to engage with an oft-forgotten consequence of conflict. Matthew spoke of his experiences of attending cultural destruction sites in Iraq, Syria and Israel on Parliamentary delegations in the last year. But of significant concern is the destruction of cultural sites in Cyprus where thousands of mosaics, icons and artefacts have been removed from religious sites - many being sold on the international antiques market, including those in London.
The session was an opportunity to hear current research and concerns around the impact of conflict on heritage and what can be done to mitigate the risks and to restore cultural heritage that has been damaged or destroyed. It was well attended by V&A Members in person and online and included presentations and a Q&A session.
After the event Matthew said: "Genocide starts with the subjugation of a people and their history and this is demonstrated through the systematic removal of the culture. Ordinarily conquerors try to remove evidence of earlier occupations to show how they are the dominant force. But rather than building upon past history, such as the Roman Empire, modern-day ideologies are seeking to deny past cultures.
"We see that not only in Iraq and Gaza but also in place such as Ukraine as Russian forces are alleged to have looted museums. This shows these forces are seeking a revision of history to produce a vacuum - which they hope to inhabit.
"The reality is that globalisation will never allow that to happen and the APPG will be seeking to collate a policy document that will help to inform stakeholders of how cultural heritage can be protected, identified and returned.”