US Senators call for ‘return of churches’

US Senators call for ‘return of churches’

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
US Senators call for ‘return of churches’

The Galata Greek Elementary School in Istanbul is agreed to return back to the foundation which originally owned it, 38 years after the school was expropriated. AA photo

Three pro-Armenian senators have introduced a bipartisan measure calling on the U.S. secretary of state to press Turkey to return “stolen” Christian church properties and allow full freedom of faith for religious minorities in the country. 

Spearheaded Friday by Sen. Scott Brown, a Republican from Massachusetts, who holds a seat on the Armed Services Committee, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat from California, who serves as chairwoman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and Senator Mark Kirk, a Republican from Illinois, who serves on the Appropriations Committee, the measure 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.” 

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 Armenia National Committee of America (ANCA), the largest and most influential Armenian American organization.

“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 our nation’s fundamental commitment to religious rights and freedom of faith. We look forward to working with all three Senators and with each of their colleagues in support of the timely adoption of this resolution.” Hamparian said. 

An identical measure, introduced last June in the U.S. House by Representatives by Ed Royce, a Republican from California, and the Democratic senior member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Howard Berman a Democrat from California, was adopted overwhelming in Committee in July, and then approved by the full House with a voice vote in mid-December of 2011.