House Panel Passes Return of Churches Measure

Return of Churches measure passes Congressional panel


House Foreign Affairs Committee Strengthens US Call for Turkey to Return Christian Holy Sites; Back Ankara’s Attacks

WASHINGTON–The House Foreign Affairs Committee passed a powerful religious freedom measure this morning holding Turkey accountable for the return of thousands of stolen Christian holy sites and urging the immediate opening of the Halki Theological Seminary, reported the Armenian National Committee of America,

Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) and Ranking Democrat Eliot Engel (D-NY) led the effort which received broad bipartisan support despite a last minute campaign led by pro-Turkey lobbyists to gut the measure. An amended version of H.R. 4347 was adopted by voice vote.

“Americans of Armenian, Greek and Assyrian heritage – the descendants of those subjected to genocide by Ottoman Turkey from 1915-1923 and whose churches continue to be held captive by the Turkish Government – join with friends of all faiths in welcoming Committee passage of the Royce-Engel Turkey Christian Churches Accountability Act,” said ANCA Chairman Ken Hachikian. “The adoption of this measure sends a strong signal to Ankara that it must stop its anti-Christian conduct and start coming to terms with its moral, material, and legal obligations to Armenians, Syriacs, Cypriots, Pontians, and other victims of Turkey’s still unpunished genocidal crimes.”

Introduced in March of this year by Chairman Royce along with the panel’s Ranking Democrat Eliot Engel (D-NY), H.R. 4347 would require that the U.S. Department of State formally report to Congress on an annual basis about the status of Turkey’s return of stolen Christian churches and properties in Turkey and occupied Cyprus. H.R. 4347 builds on a measure (H.Res.306), spearheaded by Chairman Royce and then House Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Democrat Howard Berman (D-CA), which was overwhelmingly adopted by the House of Representatives on December 13, 2011. That resolution set the groundwork for H.R.4347 by calling upon the government of Turkey to honor its international obligations to return confiscated Christian church properties and to fully respect the rights of Christians to practice their faiths.

In the days leading up to the vote, the ANCA worked closely with Armenian American religious leaders and Hellenic American groups including the Hellenic American Leadership Council (HALC), American Hellenic Educational and Progressive Association (AHEPA), American Hellenic Institute (AHI) and American Hellenic Council (AHC) in securing Committee passage of the measure.

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13 Comments

  1. Armenian said:

    This is nice, but is this really that important? Why put in all of the hard work to get something like this passed when it can go somewhere more proactive? Besides, it’s not like Turkey is going to heed this call, anyway.

    • Mark said:

      It is actually very important. And it exposes a lesson that we need to sieze on. Many in congress may be ok with not supporting a bill regarding the armenian genocide, but they do not want to go on the record not supporting the return of christian churches that were stolen by Islamic turks. I think that Armenian organizations need to begin to reach out to politicans that have conservative christian values and conservative christian constituency, and begin framing the genocide issue in terms of a genocide against Christians. Then members of congress will have to go down on the record not supporting the recognition of a genocide against Christians, perpetrated by Islam.

      • Hratch said:

        There is no such thing as Christian vvs. Islam in politics. It is naive to think that any politician would vote based on his/her ‘values’. They’ll support anything as long as it makes economical sense for their interests. Otherwise, don’t waste your time and effort on pipe dreams.

        • edward demian said:

          The fundamental Christian constituency is not to be underestimated. The very reason there are any Armenians left is due to the efforts of the American Christian public which donated to the near east relief fund. Remember , “a gold coin for every Armenian child” campaign? Where did all those gold coins come from? I think Mark has a very valid suggestion. And to underscore Marks position; I recently cruised a Serbian site, where the Albanians was the subjet. One blogger went on a tirade against the Armenians , all ther time meaning the Albanians. Truth be told, the Americans are “Geogarafically challenged”. And that may never change. But every American knows where the Christians are.

  2. Vindicated Man said:

    Woodrow Wilson’s Arbitral Award must be put on the table in a similar way.

    • edward demian said:

      Absolutely. But for Armenia to play that card with the US, it must have something to play with. The Kurds have Oil. We have political clout in Washington. Al it takes is for the Israely lobby to stop blocking all our moves.

  3. Sylva-MD-Poetry said:

    Who said that the Turks are Muslims? …they never applied any thing from Islam,
    According to Caliph Omar al Khatab when he entered Jerusalem, he prayed outside the Church, so his followers will not transfer the church to a mosque and he was sunni muslim.
    In my opinion we should never use Islam religion for Turkish nation …religion is also attached to their own culture…In Islam you can’t rape, you don’t kill women and children…
    The Pakistani militant when they entered Bengal in March 1971, and commited their genocide by killing 1.5 million people, they raped women and never killed them…But it happened only in Seljuk-Turkish history… Thus this is related to the culture and not their religion…

    A famous Arab poet and a brave fighter head of tribe Al Ajmi …Rakan Bin Huthlain Al Ajmi was taken from Arabia and imprisoned by Ottoman Turks in 19th century, for 7 years in one of fortresses (may be an Armenian fortress)…He said his famous sentence, “I can’t see any muslim here” … (I am reading his biography and his poems)
    The famous lebanese writer, Amin al Rehani…He praised Ajmi tribe being honest, brave and respectful.

    Many Arab poets … One of them Assad Rustom wrote his stanza, when Jamal Pasha the butcher (saffah in Arabic language) hanged his friends in May 6 ,1916, to say “The sons of Turks you are never Muslims”.

    In my opinion we should never use religion only the race and their genes…!

    SP

  4. Sylva-MD-Poetry said:

    Who said that the Turks are Muslims? …they never applied any thing from Islam,
    According to Caliph Omar al Khattab when he entered Jerusalem, he prayed outside the Church, so his followers will not transfer the church to a mosque and he was Sunni Muslim.
    In my opinion we should never use Islam religion for Turkish nation …religion is also attached to their own culture…In Islam you can’t rape, you don’t kill women and children…
    The Pakistani militant when they entered Bengal in March 1971, and committed their genocide by killing 1.5 million people, they raped women and never killed them … But it happened only in Seljuk-Turkish history… Thus this is related to the culture and not their religion…

    A famous Arab poet and a brave fighter head of tribe Al Ajmi … Rakan Bin Huthlain Al Ajmi was taken from Arabia and imprisoned by Ottoman Turks in 19th century, for 7 years in one of fortresses (may be in an Armenian fortress)… He said his famous sentence, “I can’t see any Muslim here” … (I am reading his biography and his poems).
    The famous Lebanese writer, Amin al Rehani … He praised Ajmi tribe being honest, brave and respectful.

    Many Arab poets … One of them Assad Rustom wrote his famous stanza, when Jamal pasha the butcher (saffah in Arabic language) hanged his friends in May 6, 1916, to say “The sons of Turks you are never Muslims”.

    In my opinion, we should never use religion only their race and call them Seljuk-Turks.

  5. GeorgeMardig said:

    It will be a short cut if effort and energy is placed on Woodrow Wilson’s Award, never signed by ‘supposedly’ our protectors the United States of America

    • edward demian said:

      I recently cruised a Serbian site, where the Albanians was the subject. One blogger went on a tirade against the Armenians , all the time meaning the Albanians. Truth be told, the Americans are “Geographically challenged”. And that may never change. But every American knows where the Christians are. Therefore, I feel that a campaign to bring fundamental Christian denominations to our cause, is crucial . The Wilsonian Award is just a vote away.

  6. Robert said:

    This Church Measure is critically important in that it establishes a very pragmatic approach to the recognition of the Genocide (for Armenians and others – Pontian Greeks and Assyrians), i.e. returning stolen churches clearly implies that a wrong was done. I think so often we Armenians can get nearly obsessed with this or that government saying the word Genocide, that we miss the ultimate objective which is the reparations associated with the Genocide.

    To be clear, I’m not suggesting that we should not work ardently for recognition of the Genocide, but lets be honest with ourselves, if every government in the world, including Turkey, today recognized the Armenian Genocide, would that be any guarentee that denial of the Genocide would not continue in some way by some people?

    The fact of the matter is that there will likely always be deniers of the Genocide. If however Turkey makes amends for the Genocide by ways such as returning Churches, then indirectly at least, they are recognizing the Genocide. Ironically, with enough such reparations, Turkey may start to realize that it’s more to their advantage to just say the word Genocide and be done with it. Said another way, Turkey denies the Genocide because it does not want to pay reparations. If we can get them to pay reparations in a slippery slope kind of way, e.g. start with the return of churches and then follow up with other kinds of reparations, this can eventually lead to a de facto recognition of the Genocide.

    Consider this in terms of an analogy. Imagine a cop pulls you over and immediately asks you to sign a ticket. When you ask the cop how much the ticket is going to cost, he/she shrugs their shoulders and says, I don’t know… could be a dollar or it could be a million dollars. Are you going to want to sign the ticket? This is the situation that the Turkish government finds itself in. Can you imagine any politician trying to sell the idea of signing such a ticket without knowing the cost, to their electorate?

    Bringing the analogy back to the return of churches and more generally that of reparations for the Armenian Genocide, I do believe the Turkish government can sell the idea of giving back what was stolen, i.e. most people, Turks, Armenians, anybody really, gets that. It’s a way to soften the blow so to speak. Realistically speaking, we Armenians need to consider the Turkish position. How would we react if the roles were reversed, that is if we had to make amends for a wrong we had done? It’s not easy, but if we Armenians work at this idea of Reparations before Recognition, or at least side by side, then we can eventually find a measure of justice that is acceptable to not only us, but Turks as well.

    • edward demian said:

      Excellent article Robert. I would like to add that after the genocide, when the material losses were still fresh in everyone’s mind, the actual material value was calculated. I remember reading the figure years ago in French Franks. It was an enormous sum, but it paled to what the US spent on Turkey, or what Turkey spends on the Military. That amount, adjusted for inflation, should be presented to the Turkish government, as a starting point in the negotiating process. That demand should be submitted by the Western Armenian Government in Exile. As to the “Turks suffered as well” argument, Turkey should take into account all claims from its Turkish citizens as well and compensate them equally.

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