Churches, Ho!

Garen Yegparian


Last week, it was Georgia. This week it’s Turkey. We might be onto something here with the “church building angle”. Of course I’m referring to the Georgian Parliament’s opening the door to establishing the legal status of the Armenian Apostolic Church in that country and possibly regaining stolen churches. And, the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee’s vote on an amendment to Title II, calling on Turkey to restore stolen churches to their rightful Christian denominational owners (Armenians, Assyrians, Greeks, etc.) and allow them to rebuild, renovate, or maintain those structures.

This is important, not because we’re Christians and we love our beautiful places of worship, but because its starts us on the road (one teeny-tiny step in a very long trek) to getting to the heart of the problems we must resolve with Turkey. I’ve long thought that it doesn’t really matter if Turkey fesses up to its crime of Genocide against our nation, as long as our lands our restored to us and we are made whole for the damages we suffered. Restoring the hundreds of damaged, destroyed, mosque- or barn-converted churches to the rightful owners is a key, and relatively simpler way of establishing the legitimacy of the reparations owed us by implementing some of those reparations.

When this return happens, I assume people are thinking the properties will all go to the Armenian Patriarchate in Constantinople. But if I recall correctly, some of the churches in the easternmost parts of Turkish occupied Armenia were under the auspices of the Catholicosate of Echmiadzeen, and certainly those in Cilicia and environs were under the auspices of the Catholicosate of Sis (now in Antelias, Lebanon). These three institutions should regain title to the churches in question. There are probably some Armenian Catholic churches in the mix as well, which should be restored to the seat of that denomination (currently in Bzummar, Lebanon), and similarly, protestant churches.

This amendment and the free standing resolution of the same meaning are an important first step in making progress circumventing the wall of denial erected in the U.S. Congress by Turkey, its corporate allies, and the U.S. presidency. By nibbling away and getting what is rightfully ours (we can discuss what should be next on another occasion), we establish the inarguability of the Genocide in Congressional minds.

However, this will not be an easy process. Those who watched the hearing on the amendment, heard the committee chair joke (and others remark) about this measure being the most debated item that they’ve all agreed upon. The notion of “let’s not beat up on Turkey too much” was strongly evident. We’ve got our work cut out for us, but providing members of Congress with measures against which they really cannot vote is a good path to follow. Who could or would argue against religious freedom and preservation of historic monuments?
One person, Ron Paul, the Republican-who’s-really-a-Libertarian and presidential candidate, could, and did, vote against the measure, the only person to do so. This is evidently based on some mindset of his that these are not issues that Congress and the U.S. should meddle in. His position should be a strong point of caution to those who share his political perspective and support the likes of Paul. People of this political stripe may be even worse antagonists to our cause than outright deniers and Turkish lackeys because they are garbed in seemingly “principled” approaches to anti-Armenian positions.

Finally, on a different church-structure related note, we should start addressing how to handle the structures left behind by diminishing or totally dissipated Armenian communities worldwide. These are expensive to maintain. Should we keep them? Should they become museums of things Armenian? Should they be moved, stone by stone to a “graveyard of churches” someplace on Armenian soil that could become a pilgrimage site?

Let’s start thinking and acting on these issues more and more, since they are the path to, and part-and-parcel of, our future as a nation.


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  1. Nelson said:

    “People of this political stripe may be even worse antagonists to our cause than outright deniers and Turkish lackeys because they are garbed in seemingly “principled” approaches to anti-Armenian positions.”

    WTF? “…garbed in SEEMINGLY ‘principled’ approaches…” ?? Do you even have ANY clue who Dr. Ronald Ernest Paul is? He IS the MOST “PRINCIPLED” man in District of Criminals. He’s a living embodiment of a nearly nonexistent oxymoron: an HONEST politician, aka. a Statesman.

    Sounds to me like we got another deluded foreign faction trying to influence American emigres from far off nations who apparently think it’s just hunky dory to meddle in the internal affairs and entangling alliances with foreign nations, just because it’s been done in the past. Funny, I don’t see you applying same ‘historical precedence’ with slavery.

    Lest you’ve been deaf, dumb, daft, or blind in the last 4 years of shift in political discourse in America, about 90% of debate topics have been spearheaded by Ron Paul and the movement inspired by him. The rest of the politically expedient politicos are too busy flip-flopping and tripping themselves over to COPY his rhetoric, without EVER having to give him credit. THAT is who you’re ignorantly speaking of.

    For your own sake, you better HOPE Ron Paul becomes the President.

    “…anti-Armenian positions.”

    Seriously, WTF, are you all like retarded neocon Likudnik Israelis??

    STOP copying the childish ‘mommy, mommy, they’re all against me’ meme of the Zionist AIPAC loser HACKS; GROW up!

    NOT endorsing a particular view does NOT equal condoning. When the typically Jewish lawyers from the ACLU defend NeoNazis’ 1st Amend. RIGHT to FreeSpeech, are they CONDONING such barbarous, crass, racist behavior? Or, are they, like discerning Constitutionally alert legal professionals, merely defending the PRINCIPLE of the fundamental legal basis in which codifies the right of individuals to exercise such act of Free Speech?

    You’d think that, THAT Public Discourse 101 shouldn’t be news by now. Well, I suppose unless you’re a foreign hack who don’t ‘GET’ our Constitutional Heritage, and are doing so intentionally, solely as a propagandistic ploy.

    But, don’t fret, you’ll see a lot more in rise of such sensible foreign policy; regardless of your views, the ONLY growing direction in American Foreign Policy is toward NON-INTERVENTIONISM. Besides, as the United States Gvt is technically insolvent, even purely based on economics, you’ll practically see your subsidies dwindling to ZERO, along with ALL other nations that US should’ve NEVER been involved in meddling in the internal affairs of, in the first place.

    In what universe is it common sense to BRIBE your ‘friends’ with money and weapons, if not BOMB them if they protest?

    Wake Up! Grow UP! No matter, you won’t have a choice but to deal with a non-interventionist foreign policy. Law of economics and common sense always win out. Capice?

    – Cheers, Mr. AIPAC wannabe

  2. Mark said:

    Whatever happened the the Lausanne Treaty which guaranteed these rights anyway but has been ignored?

    Turkey is in violation of lots of international laws, and no one does anything about them.

    I favor the resolution but it does not differ much from the laws already in place. That’s my point.

    Will Armenia itself weigh in? The answer is no. So, Armenia itself does not even care to stick up for our rights.

  3. Stephan said:

    I thank Garen for this article. Turkey is not going to give ownership of these churches easily. Therefore we:
    1. We must continue the effort and start demanding ownership.
    2. Make the necessary plans, as to how to restore the churches.
    3. Ask for some protection from the proper U.N. Agencies.
    4. Allocate funds to start restoring these churches.
    5. Encourage the Diaspora Armenians, especially the youth, to spend couple weeks, on rotation basis, to go and work on the church restoration projects.
    6. Invite NonArmenian community youths to join forces with us.

    I am willing to continue the discusions on this subject. Any comments?

  4. Kdill said:

    Good article but it is not the united states pRoblem. We comitted genocide against the native Americans and barely anything was ever returned. USA is not a world cop. Ron Paul is correct

    • ArdeVast Atheian said:

      Ron Paul is not correct. It’s his type of Isolationist Republicans that caused Turkey to aggrandize and appropriate Western Armenia and trample the Wilsonian resolution.
      Its politicians like him that created the Second World War just as they are likely to create the Third World War.
      We either intervene to create justice one piece at a time or the injustices and atrocities will multiply with big fishes gulping down small ones right and left and consume the entire world.

  5. Edward Demian said:

    I assume that local municipalities, funded by the central government, will finance the Armenian community’s repair and renovation activities. It is not only churches, but all church properties, seminaries, schools, monasteries, and all previously donated properties to which the church held title to. The church will be able to dispose of these properties at a great profit. Local communities will hire local craftsmen to make repairs. This will stimulate the local economies which will do much to improve relations between the non Armenians and the surviving Armenians. It is already happening in Diarbekir and other locals where the Kurdish minority dominate the political landscape.

  6. Lucy said:

    Why does Armenia’s Serge Sargsyan not speak about this? Why must these things be left only to the Diaspora? I won’t answer the question.

  7. Stepan said:

    Garen is correct. Recovering our Christian heritage in western Armenia is not only our moral responsibility, it is a portal into the unfinished business we call Hai Tahd. It is a contemporary issue to show the world and our young generation the relevancy of our claims to the loss of land and property from the genocide. In the short term, the return of these properties to the Armenian church will enable our pilgrims to pray at these holy sites and to build educational values to our people. As the years go on, we do have the risk of pursuing claims in a land that many have no working knowledge. The Turks are counting on this form of assimilation to neutralize the diaspora. Let’s keep the focus on sustainability.