Feinstein, Brown and Kirk Introduce Return of Churches Bill in Senate

Sen. Dianne Feinstein

Sen. Scott Brown

Religious Freedom Measure Calls on Turkey to Return all Stolen Christian Church Properties

WASHINGTON—Senators Scott Brown (R-MA), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Mark Kirk (R-IL) introduced a bipartisan measure, today, calling upon the Secretary of State to press Turkey to return stolen Christian church properties and allow full freedom of faith for religious minorities, reported the Armenian National Committee of America.

Spearheaded by Senator Brown, who holds a seat on the Armed Services Committee, Senator Feinstein, who serves as Chairwoman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and Senator Kirk, who serves on the Appropriations Committee, the measure most notably calls upon Turkey to return all confiscated Christian church properties, including “churches and other places of worship, monasteries, schools, hospitals, monuments, relics, holy sites, and other religious properties, including movable properties, such as artwork, manuscripts, vestments, vessels, and other artifacts.”

It also directly addresses Turkey’s obstruction of religious education, appointments, and succession within the Greek and Armenian churches by calling for the Turkish government to “allow the rightful church and lay owners of Christian church properties, without hindrance or restriction, to organize and administer prayer services, religious education, clerical training, appointments, and succession, religious gatherings, social services, including ministry to the needs of the poor and infirm, and other religious activities.”  More broadly, the resolution calls upon the government of Turkey to honor its international obligations to end all forms of religious persecution and to protect the rights and religious freedoms of Christians.

“We join with friends of Armenia and believers in religious liberty across our entire country in thanking Senators Brown, Feinstein and Kirk for their leadership in seeking the rightful return by Turkey of stolen Christian church properties,” said Aram Hamparian, Executive Director of the ANCA.  “In introducing the Return of Churches resolution in the Senate, they are building on the overwhelming bipartisan adoption of this religious freedom measure by the House, and increasing pressure on the Administration to reaffirm – in words, actions and results – our nation’s fundamental commitment to religious rights and freedom of faith.  We look forward to working with both Senators and with each of their colleagues in support of the timely adoption of this resolution.”

An identical measure, introduced last June in the U.S. House by Representatives by Ed Royce (R-CA), a senior member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, and Howard Berman (D-CA), the Ranking Democrat on this panel, was adopted overwhelming in Committee in July, and then approved by the full House with a voice vote in mid-December of 2011.  Both the House and Senate measures reflect the strength of a growing movement 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 the right of Armenians, Greeks, Assyrians, Chaldeans, Pontians, Arameans (Syriacs), and others to practice their faith in freedom.

The Return of Churches resolution is consistent with many other resolutions adopted by the U.S. Congress 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.

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.

Learn more about the Return of Christian Churches Resolution.


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  1. varoujan said:

    … And The whole World sat quiet while America’s darling Turkey turned hundreds Of those churches into stables for sheeps cows And donkeys.
    This went on for 90 years And still going on today. I visited those sites And cried at this crime against Christianity by The turks.
    I just hope America is not just giving lip setvice to The Christians Of The world.

  2. zareh said:

    It must be election time for a lot of Senators. They do whatever it takes to get reelected.
    What have we gained when the United States Congress passed the Genocide Recognition bill couple of decades ago. What have we gained when president Reagan used the word Genocide. These are all PR BS.
    The only way we got our Artsakh was with blood sweat and tears of the Armenian Fedayees.
    If Armenians want to regain their rights they have to have five children policy in Armenia and the Diaspora, get armed to the teeth and attack the enemy with brute force.
    Talking to people will get us nowhere.
    The Turks took our lands by force and the only way we will get it back is by force.
    Mah Imatsial, Anmahoutyoun.

  3. Haygaz said:

    Don’t be surprize if Clinton say it is the , after all they don’t want to hurt
    Turkey. Anything is possible in White House. Dear National Committee please do not waste your time, you will not get anything from Administation, it is sold to Turkey and…… Encourage and help Armenian Government to clame Armenian Churches by International Law.

  4. Francis Bulbulian said:

    Bravo to Senators Scott Brown (R-MA), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Mark Kirk (R-IL) for introducing this important bill. Better late than never in saving these beautiful neglected architectural jewels. It’s only right that these stolen properties be returned to their Armenian and Greek Owners.

  5. Raffikian said:

    Thumbs up for Senators with high moral values, specially to Senator Feinstein

  6. Sylva-MD-Poetry said:

    Every human should write even one sentence …
    Turks will never return… they will destroy more by their hands…
    They have no respect to human rights
    How can they respect religions
    They don’t recognize Kurds who are Sunni Muslim like them…
    They refuse they have Culture and Language…
    Existed before them…
    How they recognize our Churches…And return them
    Don’t dream
    Unless their own God arrives and order them to return…
    Will they obey to their God
    Might not as well…
    Might say the God has Armenian genes…

    After the Armenian Genocide, the church has been exposed to extensive vandalism. Before the restoration of the church, the reliefs on the church wall used as a poligon. Zakarya Mildanoğlu, an architect who was involved in the restoration process of the church, explains the situation during an interview with Hrant Dink# as “The facade of the church is full of bullet holes. Some of them are so big that, they cannot be covered during the renovation process. During many conferences related to the restoration of the Akhtamar church, the process of covering the bullet holes are identified as the hardest part of the restoration by academicians and architects. Most of the Armenian churches and gravestones have been exposed to vandalism as a part of the Turkish government policy which aims to destroy the Armenian heritage in Anatolia. During 1951, Turkish government took a decision to destroy the church with Sledge hammers. Yasar Kemal a very famous Turkish writer, managed to stop the destruction of the church. He explains the situation to Alain Bosquet as “I was in a ship from Tatvan to Van. I met with a military officer Dr. Cavit Bey onboard. I told him in this city there is a church descended from Armenians. It is a masterpiece. These days, they are demolishing this church. I will take you there tomorrow. This church is a monument of Anatolia. Can you help me to stop the destruction? Other day we went there with the military officer. They have already demolished the small chapel next to the church. The military officer became angry and told the workers that; I am ordering you to stop working. I will meet with governor. There will be no movement until I return to the island again. The workers immediately stopped the demolition. We arrived to Van city center. I contacted with the newspaper Cumhuriyet. They informed the ministry of education about the demolition. Two days later, Minister Avni Başman telegraphed the Van governor and ordered to stop the demolition permanently on June 25, 1951, the day when the order came is the liberation day of the church.” (Wikipedia, 2011)
    Khachkars: Armenian carved cross-stones appeared since 6th century, is a cross-bearing carved memorial stele covered with rosettes and botanical motifs. The largest collection in the world (more than ten thousand Tomb-Stones) was formerly located in a medieval cemetery in Julfa, Nakhichevan (historically an Armenian land) until it was destroyed recently (during 2005) by Azerbaijan government. The European Parliament has formally called on Azerbaijan to stop the demolition as a breach of the UNESCO World Heritage Convention.

  7. zohrab said:

    i might be talking hot air for now but i hope in the future we will be so strong and powerful we shallrescue those places by ourselves and give this criminal a big chapelakh.as i see it the world doesnt care we loose our heritage

  8. MK said:

    Our main thrust of our action should be the International courts,followed by such resolutions which are helpful but does not guarantee the return of our properties.

  9. AraK said:

    Return churches… to whom? Who will go there or spend money to renovate all these churches??? We, the diaspora, are struggling to keep our churches and schools open. Do we have the means to maintain these “returned” churches? IF they will be returned…

  10. AraK said:

    Btw Americans don’t give a s*it about our churches all they think about is oil and giving billions to Israel who’s selling state of the art weapons to the Azeris; guess for what…

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