House Committee Passes ‘Return of Churches’ Amendment 43-1

The House Foreign Affairs Committee discusses "Return of Churches" Amendment

  • Amendment based on the “Return of Churches” resolution introduced by Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chair Ed Royce (R-CA).
  • Armenian, Greek and Assyrian American communities mobilized in support of landmark religious freedom measure urging Turkey to allow freedom of worship

WASHINGTON—With a vote of 43 to 1, the House Foreign Affairs Committee Wednesday overwhelmingly adopted the Berman-Cicilline Amendment, calling on Turkey to return stolen Christian churches and to end its repression of its Christian minority, reported the Armenian National Committee of America.

“Today’s overwhelming vote represents a powerful victory for religious freedom, and a step toward the rightful return of the thousands of Christian churches and holy sites stolen by Turkey through genocide,” said Armenian National Committee of America Executive Director Aram Hamparian.

“Ninety six years after the genocide perpetrated against the Armenians, Greeks, and Assyrians, the Turkish Government has destroyed or confiscated the vast majority of their holy sites and places of worship. The Foreign Affairs Committee today sent a powerful message to Turkey that it must come to terms with this brutal legacy, respect religious freedom of surviving Christian communities, and return the fruits of its crimes.”

A packed house follows the hearing

House Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Democrat Howard Berman (D-CA) was joined by Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) in offering the amendment to the State Department Authorization bill, based upon language from H.Res.306, the “Return of Churches” resolution spearheaded by Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA) and Howard Berman (D-CA), both senior members of the Foreign Affairs Committee.

Armenian Americans across the U.S. made thousands of phone calls to their Representatives in support of the measure, following a week of action alerts issued by the Armenian National Committee of America.

Similar calls to action have been issued by Archbishops Moushegh Mardirossian and Oshagan Choloyan, Prelates of the Armenian Apostolic Church of Western and Eastern United States, respectively. Archbishops Anoushavan Tanielian and Vicken Aykazian, as well as Fr. Sarkis Aktavoukian, Fr. Oshagan Gulgulian, Fr. Mesrob Hovsepyan, and Fr. Hakob Gevorgyan were in attendance at the Committee offering their support for the passage of this legislation.

“As spiritual shepherds of the Armenian faithful, proud stewards of our ancient heritage, and devoted servants in the cause of realizing our shared national aspirations, we welcome today’s vote as a principled stand for religious freedom and a just demand for the rightful return of Christian churches throughout the biblical lands of present-day Turkey,” said Archbishop Tanielian, Vicar General of the Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church Eastern United States.

Also representing the Embassy of Armenia in the US was Minister Counselor Varduhi Asaturian.

The measure has also received broad-based support from the Greek and Assyrian American communities, with the American Hellenic Education and Progressive Association (AHEPA), the American Hellenic Institute, and the American Hellenic Council issuing statements calling their community to action. “This resolution stands in the proud American tradition of championing religious freedom around the world,” stated AHEPA Supreme President Nicholas A. Karacostas. “If adopted, this measure will further reinforce our nation’s commitment to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and also build upon the passage by Congress of the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 and many other pieces of legislation promoting religious freedom abroad.”

The ANCA Webcast the proceedings live on its Web site . Additional coverage of speeches offered by Committee members will be provided in the upcoming days.

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42 Comments

  1. Christo said:

    Which congressmember voted against this? I would like to let his/her constituents know that a congress member they have elected seems to think destruction and pilfering of religious sites is acceptable.

    • Avery said:

      Christo:

      Rep Ron Paul from Texas did: it’s nothing. Rep. Paul is a great American. He has nothing against Armenians. He votes against ANY foreign bill.
      He is also against any foreign aid to Turkey and he is against NATO. If Ron. Paul was president, Turkey would be hosed. Without US help and without NATO Turkey would be toast.

      The more important news item is that the paid Turk agent Rep. Burton was forced to vote for it, because of the ‘Christian’ language. The paid Turk agent and Genocide Denier Rep. Jean Schmidt was forced to vote for it because of the ‘Christian’ language.
      Let’s give credit to the authors of this – Rep. Royce and Rep. Berman – for the ingenious language of the amendment.

      Let’s give kudos to ANCA and the volunteers who work unrecognized, without fanfare, and achieve results.

  2. Vahe said:

    Feels great to see this resolution pass, but what does this actually mean? In all honesty, do you guys actually believe that the turkish government will return the confiscated churches? I personally do not envision a turkish government that respects the rights of minorities. Don’t forget, they claim that all Christians and Jews are infidels. How could one possible deal with a government that views all non-Muslims that way. But that’s just my personal opinion. Whats everyone else’s opinion?

  3. bigmoustache said:

    this is all good news and it’ll help restrenghten our communities…if its implemented.
    but where did orville rednbachker get this turkish double standard from? there were NO churches in saudi arabia, egypts community is fine, iran has never harassed their christians, i think we own all our churches there too. in turkey tombs have been used as urinals. they just recently held a muslim prayer in one of our churches! imagine, their enemy (iran) has much better standards.
    the guy who adopted the bill shouldve been more informed, but great news still! thanks america

  4. harut said:

    THANK YOU MR. HOWARD BERHMAN FOR JUSTISE
    IF OTHER RELIGIONS CAN WORSHIP THEIR FAITH IN THE USA AND IN OTER COUNTRYS THAT SAME GOE FOR TURKEY AND TURKEY IS NOT AN EXCEMPTION, IT DOES NOT MATTER BECAUSE TURKEY IS A NATO ALLY OR SO CALLED THE HELP OF TRANSPORTING GOOD TO IRAQ AND SO ON AND SO FORTH, LETS NOT FORGETWHEN TURKEY DID NOT WANT TO OPEN TE CORRIDOR FOR THE US TROOPS TO GO INTO IRAQ DURING GULF WAR.

  5. Patrick said:

    Come on, where are all the responses like “Good Job” and “Well done!” or are the most popular articles to respond to those which involve War, where we can prove how patriotic we are by showing how blood thirsty and brave we are over “comments”? This is how democracy works…no bloodshed, and we will win still; the results just seem less dramatic because they don’t come to us in coffins..

    • Avery said:

      Patrick:

      I don’t know you personally, but reading your posts – I feel as if I’ve known you for years.
      I sense you are an educated, patriotic young Armenian man, who is cool-headed and not prone to chickenhawn bravado that some posters engage in: it’s easy to be a keyboard-warrior.

      We need more fearless, yet cool-headed young men like you for the Cause.
      I would like to meet your parents and grandparents some day and shake their hand: they have raised a great Armenian-American son and grandson.

  6. Saghatel said:

    Let’s see if the pig headed Turkish Government follows up on this..

  7. Christo said:

    This shouldn’t be the story on the front page of asbarez newspaper. The story should be who was that congress member who casted the NO vote.

    • Avery said:

      No, this should be the Front Page News – well done Asbarez.
      Say thanks to Reps Royce and Berman.
      Say thanks to ANCA and dozens of unknown volunteers that work @ US Congress doing crucial work.
      Say thanks to Mr. Erdogan for returning Turkey to its radical Islamist roots.
      Say thanks to Mr. Erdogan for being hostile to Israel.

  8. ahmet said:

    I do not understant why do you consider such a small issue a victory. First of all, I doubt that this amendment will ever go forward. Neither Turkey has any obligation to do whatever US congress desides on Turkish people’s behalf. Turkish Government considers such issues a meddling in its interior affairs, and will pay a little attention to it. So in reality, no one has won anything.

    • Christo said:

      You forgot the most important issue. The pilferers were reminded that their claimed possessions are stolen property.

    • ArdeVast Atheian said:

      Ahmet,
      All of the Christian nations of the world supported the policy of halting the ethnic cleansing of Muslims in Kosovo and guaranteed their safety and independence with their own armies and soldiers.
      Why not join us in bestowing the Christian communities in Turkey a similar gesture by first recognizing the unfathomable atrocities that were committed against them and then returning their churches and homeland relics back to them?

      • Ahmet said:

        ArdeVast: I understand your point. I used to live in Turkey for 6 years before I moved to the U.S. and I know for sure that christians in Turkey are free to live according Christianity, pray in churches, and believe me, they are happy to live in Turkey, not in Iran or any Arab country. I’ve had many Christian friends who had Turkish citizenship and none of them ever complained about discrimination against them. They are free to pray in churches today. So the question is: why people who create these false impressions of Turkey are christians living in Europe and the U.S., not Turkish christians?

        • ArdeVast Atheian said:

          Ahmet,
          Please try to remember that Mustafa Kemal and the Young Turks completely changed the character and outlook of Turkey from an Islamic intoleremce to European toleremce and civility. The Turkey you describe is not the Turkey that existed before Turkey aggrandized its lost territories of WWI. Those changes you describe only took hold after turkey reconquered the land of every minority that had sought independence from them.

  9. manooshag said:

    This is the Turkey that has claimed to be the ‘greatest ally of the USA’,,, lying. since the USA State Department was the GREATEST ALLY of Turks to aTurkey. But yet, being ‘allied’ means nothing to the Turk… one day YES/next day NO – as with many nations of the world. Turkey playing their games to appear as an advanced/improved nation. All this while teaching – via their educational system of their youth – that Armenians committed deaths of Turks when actually Turks were facing many of their own enemies during WWI… but not the Armenians! Imagine, slaughtered, murdered, raped, tortured the unarmed Armenians (as Turks had demanded arms from Armenians! Imagine, Armenians had to buy arms to turn over to the Turks since if Armenians had not arms to ‘turn in’ they were charged with lying – costing their lives. Lying,Turk leaderships accuse Armenians of committing crimes while suffering ithe throes of the vile Turkish Genocide of the Armenians nation. Today, Turk leaders – lie to their students… lie to the world… and too, still continue lying to themselves!!

  10. Heghapokhagan said:

    USA calling on Turkey to return “STOLEN” Christian churches….
    WOW

  11. sako said:

    in the 1970s the Turkish Forces ignored brutally and savagely all the religious respect toward the CHUCHES OF the native people, THE ARMENIANS, when those barbarian Turks used the Armenian churches as targets for their tanks in their military manoeuvres. Moreover the Turks cannot accept the idea of putting a cross on the church, as it happened with AKHTAMAR’s Church.

  12. Ahmet said:

    Before you write anything, you guys should research how many churches are there in Turkey, and how many mosques are there in Armenia? How many christians live in turkey, how many muslims live in armenia? Then you might understand in fact turks showmore tolerance to christians than armenians show to muslims.

    • Avery said:

      Ahmet, we have done the research: maybe you Turks should to.

      Christianity is 2,000 years old.
      Islam is 1,000 years old.
      Armenians adopted Christianity 700 years before the religion of Islam came into existence..
      Armenia (including Western Armenia) was full of Churches when your ancestors Seljuk-Turks invaded our lands and started destroying everything in their path. Greek Byzantium was full of churches. Hagia Sophia was a church before Turks committed religious blasphemy and converted it to a Mosque. Before Turks invaded there were 10s of thousand of Churches and zero Mosques. By not destroying everything you are not doing us any favours.

      Why should there be a lot of Mosques in Armenia ? We didn’t invade Moslem lands. Moslems invaded Christian lands.

      • Ahmet said:

        Avery: When it comes to religion, the latest is considered superior to the older ones. In other words, Christianity was sent to people because jews altered the true principles of Judaism. Likewise, Islam was sent to earth because Christian world destroyed the true meaning of Christianity. People made at least 4 Bibles out of one single book, which used to be God’s word. So it doesn’t matter how old is christianity and Islam. You always build a new house, when the older one is destroyed or lost its role as a House.

        And don’t try to create a hatred with terms like Western Armenia. You know that, what matters today is, which country has what areas in its control. Today’s Turkey belongs to Turks, no matter who may have lived in those lands hundreds and thousands of years ago.

        And when we talk today, I mean which country shows more tolerance to the other? How many churches are being used by christians in Turkey today, and how many mosques are used my muslims in Armenia as of today? Or, are there any muslims in Armenia at all?

        • Avery said:

          “When it comes to religion, the latest is considered superior to the older ones” says who ? you ? Which theological theory is that ? Christian or Jewish religious theoreticians would laugh at your statement.

          In fact the opposite is true: the longer a religion has lasted the more it has withstood the test of time, the more it has proved that its religious tenets are on solid foundation. Zoroastrianism was formerly one of the largest religions, yet it did not survive the test of time.

          As to mosques and churches: I already answered your question.
          You answer this question: how many churches are there in Saudi Arabia, the holy seat of Islam. Do you know the answer ? Hint: it is less than 1.
          Why isn’t there a church in Riyadh ? when you have answered that question, you’ll know why there is a beautiful Blue Mosque in downtown Yerevan, which was meticulously restored and is a working Mosque.

          • Ahmet said:

            if you accept the fact that all religions with a Holy Book was a godsend, why do you think God sent Jesus and Christianity to human beings, if there already was Judaism on the world? Likewise, Islam was sent because, Christians altered the words of God in the holy Bible.

            Back to my previous example, you can keep the old house, and build a new one. While the old one still exists as a memory, people live in the new house, because it’s stronger and more reliable.

            To answer your question on mosques: I know, there are no churches in Mekka, Saudi Arabia. I also know that there are no mosques in Vatican. So those two Holy Lands should be set aside when we discuss the issue of religous tolerance. The fact is that precentage of christians living in Turkey and Azerbaijan ara MUCH higer than percentage of muslims living in Armenia. That is my point.

          • Avery said:

            Mosque of Rome.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mosque_of_Rome

            Please provide a link to any Church anywhere in Riyadh.(and I didn’t say Mecca in my post above, I said Riyadh).

            Reason there are Christians living in Azerbaijan and Turkey is because not all were successfully exterminated. There were 4 million Christians in Ottoman Turkey in 1915, 25% of the population. Now there are less than 100,000: Where did they go ?

          • Ahmet said:

            Avery: Little Geography lesson: Rome is the capital of Italy. Italy has mosques just like Turkey has churches. Vatican City is the capital of a tiny country called Vatican. The country of Vatican has no mosques, just like the country of Saudi Arabia does not have any churches. Does anything sound unfair to you?

            I’m for religious tolerance. Instead of being enemies the two population should become friends. Here is my suggestion: muslims should build a church in Saudi Arabia, and christians should build a mosque in Vatican, as a sign of friendship.

            Regarding your numbers: In the same manner, I can tell you that, according our history book, Iravan (Today’s erevan) was Azeri province with large Azeri and Turkish population. I am asking you the same question now: where did they go?

          • Avery said:

            Ahmet: a little geography lesson.
            Saudi Arabia is a country.
            Riyahd is the Capital of Saudi Arabia.
            Mecca is the equivalent of Vatican.
            No Mosques in Vatican: OK.
            No Churches in Mecca: OK.

            Lots of Mosques in Christian Italy, including its Capital Rome.
            Zero Churches in Muslin Saudi Arabia, including its Capital Riyadh.
            Capiche ?

          • Avery said:

            according to our and independent history books, Armenians were the indigenous inhabitants of Yerevan, Armenia, Armenian Highlands, Artsakh, Nackichevan….for about 5,000 years.

            Tatar-Turk invaders, whose original homeland was around Altai Mountains, invaded and displaced the Armenians for some periods during history, by massacring the local Armenian populations about 1,000 years ago. Armenians in many cases were able to force out the illegal occupiers of their lands. Legal term. “Unlawful Detainer”

          • Ahmet said:

            Avery:

            you should know by now that there is no such thing as independent historians.

            According to our history books, our ancestors in Caucasus were people living in Albania and Athropatena. For your information, the word Azerbaijan is derived from the name of ancient country Athropatena.

          • Avery said:

            Ahmet: I am sure your history
            books are fountains of truth.
            Azeris corrupted the Iranian
            word Azarbaijan and came up with
            the fake name of Azerbaijan.
            There is no such thing
            is Caucasian Albanian.
            It is a myth.
            Why did your Azeri-Tatar
            troops destroy 10,000 Armenian Khachkars in Nahkichevan ? To erase any traces of Armenians
            being the indigenous people.
            That how you guys manufacture fake Azeri history.

          • Christo said:

            From a Christian perspective, I would guess that you’re engaging in deliberate blasphemy. From the standards of ordinary politeness, you’re also being obnoxious with the comment regarding Christianity. You might want to do yourself a favor and read a bit about Islam. A good starting book would be THE TRUTH ABOUT MUHAMMAD. As a muslim, if you truely are one, you should be more respectful, by typing Mecca, and NOT MEKKA, since “your” prophet obligated muslims to learn arabic.
            In regards to Churches in MECCA. GOOGLE IT! It might enlighten YOUR KIND.

          • Ahmet said:

            FYI, I was graduated from a religious school, and know about my and your religion more than you can imagine. I’m fluent in arabic, and see no difference between Mecca and Mekka, since I pronounce it in Arabic.

            I never said that Christianity was fake or something like that. It was a true religion, until christians started revising God’s words. That’s why Islam as a new religion was sent, not only to arabs, but to everyone on this world.

          • Christo said:

            By the way “your” prophets first love/wife was Khadija. Fact, she was a Christian living in Mecca and Medina. I guess in ur assumption she traveled all the way from todays Saudia Arabia to Jerusalem in order to attend church services. I love it how individuals like urself who have love to revise history to “your” benefit seem to alter the truth. A few years ago a seventh century church and monastery was discovered in present day UAE. I’m sure in archeological digs were allowed in the arabian peninsula it would be littered with Christian sites. ESH!

        • Avery said:

          Ahmet, let’s discuss your next statement: “… what matters today is, which country has what areas in its control.”. Fair enough for the moment.
          Republic of Artsakh controls its own territory plus other historic Armenian territories its forces liberated: do you support Artsakh’s right to independence and to the lands it now controls ? Yes ? No ?.

          Next question. (Hypothetical scenario: I do not wish any harm to Turk civilians).
          Hypothetically, if in a few years Turkey is kicked out of NATO because it has turned radically Islamic, it then attacks Armenia, and Russia, well, retaliates with such force (you know what I mean), that the Turkish State ceases to exist. Since there is no organized Turkish State at that point, Armenia legally claims Western Armenia under the Sevres Treaty. Would you support that ?

          • Ahmet said:

            When I said “areas in control”, I meant the control that is recognized by other nations and treaties. So, I don’t support Karabakh’s right to independence, because the international law still recognizes it as area under Armenian occupation.

            To your last point, I won’t even comment on such a illusionary conclusion you have come to. Turkey will never turn radically Islamic. It will always remain as a secular state. I can assure you that as a person who lived in Turkey for 7 years and studied its law. It will always remain as a strong nation within NATO. Do you really think that the U.S. and other NATO member nations will let Turkey to become a radical state and accept the loss of such a strong partner and ally in the Middle East?

          • Avery said:

            well then, do you post comments demanding that Turkish invasion troops leave Cyprus ? You do ? please provide links so I can verify.

            As to Turkey. Erdogan’s Islamist party won convincingly with 50% of the vote. A whole bunch of Kemalist Military Brass just resigned. There is nothing the US or other NATO members can do. US could not stop the overthrow of the Shah of Iran. When People move, no government can stop it. Islamists won by popular vote. There is no turning back. Kemal’s secular experiment ended in failure. Islam is far stronger than Kemal.

          • Ahmet said:

            Turkey, which is a NATO member state, has recognized Northern Cyprus Turkish Republic as an independent state. So there is no Turkish invasion troops in Cyprus, it’s Cyprus’ own troops, Has Armenia recognized Karabakh’s independence? Under what name do armenian troops stay in the occupied Karabakh region?

          • Avery said:

            Are you serious ? The Invading Turk Army has recognized the invaded and occupied part of the of a sovereign country, therefore it declares that its troops are not invading ? No other country recognized the occupation as legal. A criminal declares his crime legal: and you claim you were trained in law ?

            There are no RoA troops in Artsakh. Artsakh’s troops are on their own land. All legal.

          • Ahmet said:

            Aha. Karabakh – whose people live thanks to humanitarian aid – has own troops. Yea, right.

          • Avery said:

            You Azeris can’t get over the fact that 200,000 Armenians of Artsakh crushed the military of a nation of 7 million. In 1994 your fearless Leader Aliyev Sr was practically begging Moscow to stop Armenians from liberating more occupied Armenians lands.

        • Christo said:

          For argument sake you should convert to the church of Scientology!

  13. uğur said:

    There are hundreds of churches in Turkey, and nobody has a problem with that, my flat is adjacent to an Armenian church for example (google it—>Kumkapı Meryem Ana Ermeni Kilisesi).. According to Treaty of Lausanne, religious and cultural rights of minorities are guarentied by the state. Armenians in Turkey has their own schools that teaches Armenian language. If you don’t believe me, visit Turkey and see it with your eyes.

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