June 14, 2011

Rep. Ed Royce

Rep. Howard Berman

Rep. Robert Dold

Rep. Adam Schiff

WASHINGTON, DC – A bipartisan group of U.S. legislators are set to introduce two resolutions in support of a truthful and just resolution of the Armenian Genocide, including a new measure specifically pressing Turkey to fully respect the rights of Christians to practice their faith in freedom, including through the rightful return of confiscated churches to Armenians, Greeks, Assyrians, Pontians, Arameans (Syriacs) and other Christians communities, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).

The Return of Churches resolution, spearheaded by senior House Foreign Affairs Committee member Ed Royce (R-CA) and the panel’s Ranking Democrat Howard Berman (D-CA), calls upon the government of Turkey to honor its international obligations end all forms of religious persecution and to protect the rights and religious freedoms of Christians. The measure specifically calls upon Turkey to return confiscated Christian church properties.

The Armenian Genocide Resolution, introduced by Congressmen Robert Dold (R-IL) and Adam Schiff (D-CA), calls upon the President to recognize the Armenian Genocide and encourages the U.S. government to apply the lessons of this tragedy to prevent future crimes against humanity. This measure, identical to H.Res.252 during the previous session of Congress, has been adopted by the Foreign Affairs Committee four times over the past eleven years, but has yet to reach the floor for an up-or-down vote of the full U.S. House of Representatives.

“We want to thank Congressmen Royce, Berman, Dold, and Schiff for their leadership in working toward a truthful and just resolution of the Armenian Genocide,” said ANCA Chairman Ken Hachikian.

Commenting specifically on the measure safeguarding Christian heritage introduced by Reps. Royce and Berman, Hachikian noted: “The Christian rights legislation reflects and reaffirms the long and proud history of principled leadership by the U.S. Congress in protecting religious freedom abroad – for Christians and for peoples of all faiths. In calling upon Turkey to end restrictions on freedom of worship and restore the rights of Christians to their stolen places of worship, the Congress will, with the full moral authority of the American people, add its voice to the international effort to morally defend and materially protect the rights and religious freedoms of Christians inside Turkey’s present-day borders.” This religious freedom measure represents an effort 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 of the right of Armenians, Greeks, Assyrians, Chaldeans, Pontians, Arameans (Syriacs), and others to practice their faith in freedom. The measure is consistent with many other resolutions adopted by the U.S. House 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.

Reps. Royce and Berman Speak out on Turkey’s Confiscation of Churches; Crackdown on Religious Freedom:

Return of Churches resolution lead sponsors Reps. Ed Royce and Howard Berman speak out on the importance of immediate action to address Turkey’s repression of its religious minorities and the confiscation of churches.

“Conditions in Turkey have deteriorated with violent hate crimes increasingly linked to religion,” explained Rep. Royce. “My resolution urges Turkey to protect its vulnerable religious minorities. They should be able to freely practice, worship and study their faith without fear of discrimination or violence. We expect Turkey to make good on its obligation to provide this protection.”

Rep. Berman concurred, noting, “By expropriating church properties, harassing worshippers, and refusing to grant full legal status to some Christian groups, Turkey has failed to fulfill its obligation as a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which requires ‘freedom of thought, conscience, and religion.’ Turkey must end its deeply disturbing practice of religious discrimination, cease all restrictions on gatherings for religious prayer and education, and return stolen church property.”

Reps. Dold and Schiff Speak Out on the Imperative of U.S Affirmation of the Armenian Genocide:

“The United States has a duty to remember those who have no voice,” explained Rep. Dold upon introduction of the Armenian Genocide Resolution. “Ninety-six years ago 1.5 million people were killed simply because they were Armenian. I’ve personally heard stories from Armenian-Americans in my district who lost loved ones during the Armenian genocide. This appalling tragedy should not be ignored; rather, as a nation that fights for justice it is only fitting that the United States honestly recognize the Armenian Genocide and the victims so that together we can help prevent future genocides.”

“The facts of history are clear, well documented and non-negotiable – 1.5 million Armenians were deliberately murdered in the first genocide of the 20th century,” explained Rep. Schiff. “If we are to prevent future atrocities, we must condemn genocide whenever and wherever it occurs. It has never served our national interest to be complicit in another nation’s campaign of genocide denial, and it never will. While there are still some survivors left, we have a compelling, urgent and moral obligation to speak plainly about the past.”

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.

Sources on Capitol Hill report that both measures are supported by a broad bi-partisan group of original cosponsors.

To learn more about the Return of Christian Churches Resolution and to ask your U.S. Representatives to cosponsor this measure, visit:www.anca.org/return To learn more about the Armenian Genocide Resolution and to ask your U.S. Representatives to cosponsor this genocide prevention measure, visit:www.anca.org/endthegagrule


For Immediate Release
Media Contact: Elizabeth S. Chouldjian
Email / Tel: (202) 775-1918 / (703) 585-8254 cell
Armenian National Committee of America
1711 N Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036
Tel. (202) 775-1918 * Fax. (202) 775-5648 * Email.anca@anca.org
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