Washington – A broad, bipartisan group of U.S. legislators have joined with the lead sponsors of two House resolutions pressing Turkey to return stolen Christian churches, and calling upon the President to properly recognize the Armenian Genocide, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).
“We would like share our gratitude with Congressmen Royce, Berman, Dold, and Schiff for their leadership, and to express our appreciation to each of the original cosponsors of both the Return of Churches and the Armenian Genocide Resolution,” said Aram Hamparian, Executive Director of the ANCA.”We look forward to working with supporters of genocide-prevention and advocates of religious freedom on both sides of the aisle to move both of these measures toward passage.”
The Return of Churches resolution, spearheaded by senior House Foreign Affairs Committee member Ed Royce (R-CA) and the panel’s Ranking Democrat Howard Berman (D-CA), calls upon the government of Turkey to honor its international obligations end all forms of religious persecution and to protect the rights and religious freedoms of Christians. The measure specifically calls upon Turkey to return confiscated Christian church properties. Most notable among the 32 original cosponsors for the measure is Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), the Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
The Armenian Genocide Resolution, introduced by Congressmen Robert Dold (R-IL) and Adam Schiff (D-CA), calls upon the President to recognize the Armenian Genocide and encourages the U.S. government to apply the lessons of this tragedy to prevent future crimes against humanity. This measure, identical to H.Res.252 during the previous session of Congress, has been adopted by the Foreign Affairs Committee four times over the past eleven years, but has yet to reach the floor for an up-or-down vote of the full U.S. House of Representatives.
Reps. Royce and Berman Speak out on Turkey’s Confiscation of Churches; Crackdown on Religious Freedom:
Return of Churches resolution lead sponsors Reps. Ed Royce and Howard Berman speak out on the importance of immediate action to address Turkey’s repression of its religious minorities and the confiscation of churches.
“Conditions in Turkey have deteriorated with violent hate crimes increasingly linked to religion,” explained Rep. Royce. “My resolution urges Turkey to protect its vulnerable religious minorities. They should be able to freely practice, worship and study their faith without fear of discrimination or violence. We expect Turkey to make good on its obligation to provide this protection.”
Rep. Berman concurred, noting, “By expropriating church properties, harassing worshippers, and refusing to grant full legal status to some Christian groups, Turkey has failed to fulfill its obligation as a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which requires ‘freedom of thought, conscience, and religion.’ Turkey must end its deeply disturbing practice of religious discrimination, cease all restrictions on gatherings for religious prayer and education, and return stolen church property.”
The religious freedom measure represents an effort to highlight, confront, and eventually reverse decades of official Turkish policy of destroying Christian church properties, desecrating holy sites, discriminating against Christian communities, and denying of the right of Armenians, Greeks, Assyrians, Chaldeans, Pontians, Arameans (Syriacs), and others to practice their faith in freedom. The measure is consistent with many other resolutions adopted by the U.S. House over the past several decades defending religious freedom and protecting sacred sites and places of worship, as well as with the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 and America’s longstanding leadership in supporting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Joining Return of Church resolution sponsor Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Ranking Democrat Howard Berman as original cosponsors of the Return of Churches resolution are Armenian Caucus Co-Chair Frank Pallone (D-NJ); Hellenic Caucus Co-Chairs Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) and Carolyn Maloney (D-NY); and Human Rights Caucus Co-Chairs Frank Wolf (R-VA) and Jim McGovern (D-MA), as well as Representatives: Gary Ackerman (D-NY), Joe Baca (D-CA), Bruce Braley (D-IA), Dennis Cardoza (D-CA), Judy Chu (D-CA), David Cicilline (D-RI), Jim Costa (D-CA), Joseph Crowley (D-NY), Jeff Denham (R-CA), Eliot Engel (D-NY), Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Barney Frank (D-MA), Elton Gallegly (R-CA), Douglas Lamborn (R-CO), James Langevin (D-RI), Dan Lungren (R-CA), Thaddeus McCotter (R-MI), Grace Napolitano (D-CA), Devin Nunes (R-CA), Steven Rothman (D-NJ), John Sarbanes (D-MD), Adam Schiff (D-CA), Brad Sherman (D-CA), and Jackie Speier (D-CA).
Reps. Dold and Schiff Speak Out on the Imperative of U.S Affirmation of the Armenian Genocide: “The United States has a duty to remember those who have no voice,” explained Rep. Dold upon introduction of the Armenian Genocide Resolution. “Ninety-six years ago 1.5 million people were killed simply because they were Armenian. I’ve personally heard stories from Armenian-Americans in my district who lost loved ones during the Armenian genocide. This appalling tragedy should not be ignored; rather, as a nation that fights for justice it is only fitting that the United States honestly recognize the Armenian Genocide and the victims so that together we can help prevent future genocides.”
“The facts of history are clear, well documented and non-negotiable – 1.5 million Armenians were deliberately murdered in the first genocide of the 20th century,” explained Rep. Schiff. “If we are to prevent future atrocities, we must condemn genocide whenever and wherever it occurs. It has never served our national interest to be complicit in another nation’s campaign of genocide denial, and it never will. While there are still some survivors left, we have a compelling, urgent and moral obligation to speak plainly about the past.”
The Armenian Genocide Resolution, spearheaded by Representatives Robert Dold (R-IL), Adam Schiff (D-CA), and Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chairs Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Ed Royce (R-CA), has the following original cosponsors: Gary Ackerman (D-NY), Joe Baca (D-CA), Shelley Berkley (D-NV), Howard Berman (D-CA), Bruce Braley (D-IA), Michael Capuano (D-MA), Judy Chu (D-CA), David Cicilline(D-RI), John Conyers (D-MI), Jim Costa (D-CA), Jerry Costello (D-IL), Joe Courtney (D-CT), Joseph Crowley (D-NY), Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Jeff Denham (R-CA), David Dreier (R-CA), Eliot Engel (D-NY), Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Barney Frank (D-MA), Elton Gallegly (R-CA), Scott Garrett (R-NJ), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Michael Grimm (R-NY), Jim Himes (D-CT), Rush Holt (D-NJ), Steny Hoyer (D-MD), James Langevin (D-RI), John Larson (D-CT), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Sander Levin (D-MI), Daniel Lipinski (D-IL), Nita Lowey (D-NY), Dan Lungren (R-CA), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Thaddeus McCotter (R-MI), James McGovern (D-MA), Grace Napolitano (D-CA), Devin Nunes (R-CA), Gary Peters (D-MI), Charles Rangel (D-NY), Laura Richardson (D-CA), Steven Rothman (D-NJ), Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), Linda Sanchez (D-CA), John Sarbanes (D-MD), Janice Schakowsky (D-IL), Allyson Schwartz (D-PA), Brad Sherman (D-CA), Jackie Speier (D-CA), Pete Stark (D-CA), Peter Visclosky (D-IN), Henry Waxman (D-CA),Frank Wolf (R-VA), and David Wu (D-OR).
The territory of present-day Turkey, home to many of the most important centers of early Christianity -most notably Nicaea, Ephesus, Chalcedon, and Constantinople – contains, to this day, a rich legacy of Christian heritage, including thousands of religious sites and properties.