USA Congressional House Foreign Affairs Committee passes HR 4347 - Turkey Christian Churches Accountability Act
Congressional House Foreign Affairs Committee passes HR 4347 - Turkey Christian Churches Accountability Act
Washington, D.C. – Representative Gus Bilirakis, Co-Chair of the Congressional Caucus on Hellenic Issues and member of the Caucus on International Religious Freedom, praised House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Edward Royce and others on the Committee for approving in a strong bipartisan fashion H.R. 4347, the Turkey Christian Churches Accountability Act which incorporates language from Congressman Bilirakis’s previously proposed legislation, calling upon the Government of Turkey to facilitate the reopening of the Ecumenical Patriarchate's Theological School of Halki without condition or further delay and released the following statement:
“I am extremely pleased that H.R. 4347 has been approved by the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, and that Chairman Royce readily assumed into his bill the language of my resolution calling upon the Government of Turkey to facilitate the reopening of the Ecumenical Patriarchate's Theological School of Halki without condition or further delay. The Theological School of Halki has been illegally shut down for over 40 years by the government of Turkey. This legislation would call on Ankara to reopen the seminary immediately and to address other longstanding concerns related to the Ecumenical Patriarchate. I look forward to H.R. 4347 reaching the House floor for final passage, and I will continue to demand the reopening of the seminary without condition or delay. Further, I will persevere in the fight for religious freedom of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Holy See for nearly 300,000,000 million Christians worldwide.”
The American Hellenic Council (AHC) joined with the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA), Armenian American religious leaders and Hellenic American groups including the Hellenic American Leadership Council (HALC), American Hellenic Educational and Progressive Association (AHEPA) and the American Hellenic Institute (AHI) in securing Committee passage of the measure. Below is a press release from ANCA.
WASHINGTON, DC - The House Foreign Affairs Committee passed a powerful religious freedom measure this morning holding Turkey accountable for the return of thousands of stolen Christian holy sites and urging the immediate opening of the Greek Orthodox Halki Theological Seminary, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).
Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) and Ranking Democrat Eliot Engel (D-NY) led the effort which received broad bipartisan support despite a last minute campaign led by pro-Turkey lobbyists to gut the measure. An amended version of H.R. 4347 was adopted by voice vote.
“Americans of Armenian, Greek and Assyrian heritage – the descendants of those subjected to genocide by Ottoman Turkey from 1915-1923 and whose churches continue to be held captive by the Turkish Government – join with friends of all faiths in welcoming Committee passage of the Royce-Engel Turkey Christian Churches Accountability Act,” said ANCA Chairman Ken Hachikian. “The adoption of this measure sends a strong signal to Ankara that it must stop its anti-Christian conduct and start coming to terms with its moral, material, and legal obligations to Armenians, Syriacs, Cypriots, Pontians, and other victims of Turkey’s still unpunished genocidal crimes.”
Introduced this March of this year by Chairman Royce along with the panel's Ranking Democrat Eliot Engel (D-NY), H.R. 4347 would require that the U.S. Department of State formally report to Congress on an annual basis about the status of Turkey's return of stolen Christian churches and properties in Turkey and occupied Cyprus. H.R. 4347 builds on a measure (H.Res.306), spearheaded by Chairman Royce and then House Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Democrat Howard Berman (D-CA), which was overwhelmingly adopted by the House of Representatives on December 13, 2011. That resolution set the groundwork for H.R.4347 by calling upon the government of Turkey to honor its international obligations to return confiscated Christian church properties and to fully respect the rights of Christians to practice their faiths.