Turkish Government Attacks American Provision for Religious Freedom

Turkish Church

As the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs prepares to preside over the Turkey Christian Churches Accountability Act on June 18th, the Turkish government is reportedly trying to block the adoption of this bipartisan religious freedom provision.

The draft resolution that was introduced by Chairman Ed Royce in March 2014 requires the US Department of State to officially report to Congress on a yearly basis with regards to the status of Turkey’s return of confiscated Christian properties in Turkey as well as occupied Cyprus. The House of Representatives adopted the measure in December 2011 after receiving an overwhelming majority. Thereafter, the government of Turkey was called upon to honour its international obligations to the United States by returning seized Christian properties and respecting the rights of each individual to practice their respective faith.

“This legislation holds Turkey accountable for its international obligations to protect and promote human rights and it calls attention to Turkish leaders' broken promises to return church properties to their rightful owners. Over decades, Christian church properties, particularly those belonging to the Armenian, Syriac, and Greek Orthodox communities have been either violently overtaken or illegally confiscated... These churches under Turkish control have been looted, converted to mosques, storehouses, casinos, vandalized and often irreparably damaged… Vulnerable religious minorities deserve more than just piecemeal returns of their stolen religious properties. It is important that the United States continue to encourage Turkish leaders to uphold their commitments and return all remaining properties without further delay,” said Royce.

Before the consideration of the draft resolution, the Committee will organize a hearing to discuss the protection of Christian heritage in Turkey. Both the hearing and the consideration will be cast live on the House Foreign Affairs Committee website.

“We want to thank Chairman Royce… for advancing this religious freedom legislation and look forward to the Committee's consideration of a principled and practical American stand in support of the rights of Christians in present-day Turkey and occupied Cyprus to practice their faith in their own houses of worship. We are pleased to join with all believers in religious freedom including of course our Cypriot, Greek, Pontian and Syriac brothers and sisters in supporting this measure,” said ANCA Chairman Ken Hachikian.

Photo Credit: J. Oliver-Bonjoch

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