Burdens of genocide must be borne by perpetrator

Published: Wednesday March 14, 2012

Ken Hachikian addresses the Antelias conference.

Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA): We want Turkey to follow through on its
commitment to return confiscated property of Christian communities and
to provide compensation for properties that can't be recovered. We
want Christian communities in Turkey to enjoy the same rights and
privileges that religious minorities enjoy in this country. We want
Turkey to acknowledge the Armenian genocide.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA): But the physical near-annihilation of the
Armenian people was not enough to satisfy the Turks' desire to wreak
vengeance on Armenia, which was the first nation in the world to adopt
Christianity as its official religion in AD 301. Their campaign
against the Armenians was broader and was aimed at destroying not only
the Armenian people but also their history, their culture, and their
faith.

Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA): The adoption of H. Res. 306 would add the
powerful voice of the United States Congress to the defense of
religious freedom for Christians in present-day Turkey and reinforce
the traditional leadership of Congress in defending freedom of faith
around the world.

Rep. Robert Dold (R-IL): In the United States we enjoy the freedom to
worship, but throughout the world billions of people do not have the
liberty to practice this fundamental human right. For generations,
Armenian, Greek, Catholic, and Jewish minorities were punished for
practicing their faith in the Ottoman Empire and modern-day Turkey.

The adoption of H.Res.306 helped challenge many myths that Turkey has
long propagated in the United States and throughout the world.

First among these is that Turkey, far from being tolerant or
pluralistic, was literally founded upon the violent, wholesale
destruction and exile of many ancient Christian nations. The territory
of Turkey, once a vital center of Christianity, now has a Christian
population of less than 0.1%.

Turkey has a history of resolving issues of faith and identity through
violence, not tolerance. Examples include its state-sponsored murder
and persecution of Greeks, Armenians, Kurds, Cypriots and Assyrians.

We busted the myth that tokenism can be a substitute for the wholesale
change that Turkey must undertake. Ankara seeks credit for renovating
a handful of religious sites and converting them into museums, while
seeking to escape criticism for its expropriation of thousands of
Christian sites from their rightful owners.

We took on Turkey's use of the ugly euphemism: "disused religious
sites" by making it clear that the overwhelming majority of the
Christian parishioners of these churches were brutally and
systematically massacred and exiled.

Building upon this foundation and the growing Congressional and
American civil society consensus behind the return of churches, we
will press our cause forward with courage and confidence.

We invite you - and friends of Armenia and champions of religious
liberty from all over the world - to join in this noble effort.

I call upon each and every one of you to bring to bear your ideas and
your energy to this struggle, starting with the return of religious
properties and extending to the full moral and material restitution
and reparations owed by Turkey to the Armenian nation for our lost
lives, our stolen territories, our confiscated properties, our
desecrated holy sites, and for all the costs and unfulfilled
opportunities of a post-genocidal century of struggling to survive.

This is truly a global undertaking, the success of which will rely
upon our friendship and faith, our strength and our solidarity.

In solemn memory of our forbearers and for the righteousness of our
Cause, I know we will persevere.

Thank you.

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