Senators introduce resolutions on Armenian Genocide, Turkey’s return of churches
Published: Wednesday April 11, 2012
Washington - Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Mark Kirk (R-IL) introduced legislation, S.Res.399, March 19 calling upon the U.S. government to properly recognize the Armenian Genocide, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA). On March 8, Sen. Kirk joined Senators Scott Brown (R-MA) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) in introducing a bipartisan measure calling for a return of stolen Christian church properties in Turkey.
Senate counterpart to resolution that passed House of Representatives
Spearheaded by Senator Brown, who holds a seat on the Armed Services Committee, Senator Feinstein, who serves as Chairwoman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and Senator Kirk, who serves on the Appropriations Committee, the measure most notably 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."
It also directly addresses Turkey's obstruction of religious education, appointments, and succession within the Greek and Armenian churches by calling for the Turkish government to "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 gatherings, social services, including ministry to the needs of the poor and infirm, and other religious activities." 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 ANCA. "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 - in words, actions and results - 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."
An identical measure, introduced last June in the U.S. House by Representatives by Ed Royce (R-CA), a senior member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, and Howard Berman (D-CA), the Ranking Democrat on this panel, was adopted overwhelming in Committee in July, and then approved by the full House with a voice vote in mid-December of 2011. Both the House and Senate measures reflect the strength of a growing movement 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 the right of Armenians, Greeks, Assyrians, Chaldeans, Pontians, Arameans (Syriacs), and others to practice their faith in freedom.
The Return of Churches resolution is consistent with many other resolutions adopted by the U.S. Congress 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.
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.
To learn more about the Return of Christian Churches Resolution, visit: www.anca.org/return.
Another Genocide resolution
"It is time for the United States to join the nineteen nations including Belgium, Canada, France, Italy and the European Union that have formally recognized the actions carried out by the Ottoman Empire from 1915 to 1923 as genocide," Senator Menendez said as the most recent Genocide resolution was introduced. "The Armenian Genocide is a historical fact and was one of the incidents upon which the Genocide Convention was predicated. Only by accurately acknowledging the crimes of the past can we ever hope to move forward in a legitimate manner and prevent such human rights crimes from happening in the future."
"The Armenian Genocide is well-documented and formally recognized by 11 NATO allies and the European Union. This resolution accurately characterizes the events of 1915-1923 as a genocide, honors the memory of the victims, and strengthens America's moral leadership on human rights and the prevention of mass atrocities around the world," said a spokesman for Senator Kirk.
Joining Senators Menendez and Kirk as original cosponsors of the bipartisan measure were Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Human Rights and Chairman of the Senate Environment Committee and Public Works Committee, Michael Bennet (D-CO), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Carl Levin (D-MI), Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Jack Reed (D-RI), Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower, and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism. Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY), the Vice-Chairman of the Democratic Conference, has also joined S.Res.399 as a cosponsor.