Washington, DC — The American Hellenic Institute (AHI) welcomes introduction of a congressional resolution, H.Res.306, by the U.S. House of Representatives on June 15, 2011. The resolution, introduced by U.S. Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), a member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and U.S. Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA), the ranking member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, urges the Republic of Turkey to safeguard its Christian heritage (including the Greeks, Armenians, Assyrians, Pontians, and Syriacs) and to return confiscated church properties.
“As advocates for the rule of law, we welcome introduction of this resolution that directly urges Turkey to honor its obligations under international treaties and human rights law,” said President Nick Larigakis. “We commend Congressmen Royce and Berman for introducing the resolution, and we call on the House of Representatives to pass it. By adopting this resolution, the U.S. House will, in the proud American tradition of advancing international religious freedom, take a principled stand for the inalienable rights of all peoples to freedom of faith.”
Larigakis added that this measure represents a constructive first step, consistent with international law and Turkey’s own international obligations, toward reversing the brutal, modern-day impact of both the Ottoman Empire’s genocidal drive to eliminate its Christian populations, and the Republic of Turkey’s near century-long policy of destruction, desecration, and disregard of the vast religious and cultural legacy left behind by these slaughtered nations. H.Res.306 is consistent with AHI’s Annual Policy Statements, which demonstrates that Turkey’s actions violate U.S. law on freedom of religion.
H.Res.306 has 32 co-sponsors and enjoys strong bipartisan support, including House Committee on Foreign Affairs Chairman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Ranking Member Berman; Hellenic Caucus Co-Chairs Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) and Carolyn Maloney (D-NY); and the Co-Chairs of the Armenian and Human Rights Caucuses.
“We thank the large number of original co-sponsors to the resolution,” said Larigakis.
List of H. Res. 306 sponsors
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).
The resolution urges the government of Turkey to honor its obligations under law to:
(1) end all forms of religious discrimination;
(2) 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 community gatherings, social services, including ministry to the needs of the poor and infirm, and other religious activities;
(3) return to their rightful owners all Christian 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; and
(4) allow the rightful Christian church and lay owners of Christian church properties, without hindrance or restriction, to preserve, reconstruct, and repair, as they see fit, all Christian churches and other places of worship, monasteries, schools, hospitals, monuments, relics, holy sites, and other religious properties within Turkey.