Burdens of genocide must be borne by perpetrator

Published: Wednesday March 14, 2012

Ken Hachikian addresses the Antelias conference.

Antelias, Lebanon - Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) Chairman Ken Hachikian offered a broad vision of how Return of Churches movement reflects and also materially reinforces the broader international movement to hold the Republic of Turkey responsible for a truthful, just, and comprehensive resolution of the Armenian Genocide.

Hackikian offered his remarks, at the recently concluded three-day
international conference, "The Armenian Genocide: From Recognition to
Reparation," hosted by His Holiness, Vehapar Aram I, Catholicos of the
Great House of Cilicia, and organized by the Armenian Catholicosate of
Cilicia. The conference featured presentations by dozens of leading
academics and thought-leaders from across the globe, all addressing
the topic of securing the reparations owed by Turkey to the Armenian
nation for the Armenian Genocide of 1915 to 1923. Hachikian's speech
offered first-hand insights into the ANCA's pivotal role in the
passage of the Return of Churches resolution, H.Res.306, and outlined,
in broader terms, how this effort fits into the cause of justice for
the Armenian Genocide and the future viability of the Armenian nation.

Hachikian stressed, in a speech that addressed the moral and material
aspects of the justice owed the Armenian nation, that, "As we approach
the end of a century in which all the moral and material costs of the
Armenian Genocide have fallen upon the victims of this crime, we seek,
for ourselves and all humanity, a new era, a better century - guided
by the ethic that the burdens of this genocide - and all genocides -
will, as they rightly must, be borne by its perpetrator."

He added that, "The return of churches, Turkey's surrender - voluntary
or otherwise - of the thousands of church properties it stole from
Armenians, Assyrians, Greeks, Syriacs, and other Christians prior to,
during, and after the Armenian Genocide era, would represent a
meaningful first step by the Turkish government toward accepting its
responsibility for a truthful and just resolution of this still
unpunished crime against humanity. It would, as well, mark a major
blow for the cause of international religious freedom, in a corner of
the world sadly known not for its pluralism, but rather for the depths
of its intolerance."

Vehapar Aram I, who, in his opening statement powerfully asserted the
Catholicosate of Cilicia's legal claims to Armenian Church properties,
closed the conference by reporting that, based on the emerging
conclusions of this Conference, the Armenian Catholicosate of Cilicia,
in collaboration with the Armenian Catholic and Evangelic churches and
Armenian political parties, community leadership and major players of
Armenian Communities:

1) Will explore with organized efforts the concrete possibilities of
moving forward taking into consideration the provisions provided by
the international law.

2) Will seek an advisory opinion from the International Court of
Justice through the UN on the legal consequences of the Armenian
Genocide. I believe thaty NGO's and civil society could play advocacy
role by challenging the UN to take concrete action to this effect.

3) Will also explore the possibilities of raising the Armenian case
before the European Court of Human Rights, based on human rights
violation related to genocide and confiscation of properties.

"This is not an easy process, taking into consideration the present
political landscape and geopolitical interests," His Holiness
concluded, " however, we are determined to embark on this critical
process with renewed faith and firm determination. The role of the
Republic of Armenia is pivotal in this respect. We are seeking
justice: recognition of the Armenian Genocide and reparation. This is
a challenge before us. The Armenian Catholicosate of Cilicia is ready
to respond to this challenge with strong commitment and a profound
sense of responsibility."

Hachikian, explained, during his presentation, that Armenians are "not
seeking truth simply for the sake of truth, for all the world, and
certainly we as Armenians, know all too well the reality of the
Armenian Genocide and the ongoing consequences of this crime. We are
in no need of further affirmation. Nor of vengeance or vindication.
No. We seek truth in the name of justice. And justice in the interest
of survival. That is why we struggle so mightily against Ankara's
denial of truth and obstruction of justice."

The ANCA Chairman also offered a public lecture on this topic, hosted
by the Armenian National Committee of the Middle East, at the
Shaghzoyan Center, in the Bourj Hammoud neighborhood of Beirut. The
topic of his talk was, "The Question of Return of Church Properties in
the U.S. Congress: What is the Role of Armenian Activists? What are
the Implications for Turkey? Is This a Precursor to a Meaningful
Discussion of Reparations?"

The full text of Hachikian's speech is provided below.

#####

Good Afternoon:

I want to start my remarks today by thanking Vehapar Aram I for his
vision in hosting this gathering and bringing us all together under
the leadership of the Great House of Cilicia and also to express my
appreciation to the organizers of this conference for inviting me to
participate from across the Atlantic in this important academic
undertaking.

I will share with you today the Armenian National Committee of
America's contribution to the great cause of securing for our nation
the restitution and reparations owed to our people for Turkey's crime
of genocide.

My perspective here today, born of my experience and shaped on the
front lines of our common cause, is a political one. My views, and
those of my colleagues, have, nonetheless, been meaningfully informed,
greatly enriched and consistently energized by the far-reaching body
of academic inquiry on this subject, but our struggle is waged in the
civic arena.

Scholars, as they should, shed light; politicians, as we must, deliver
heat. We need both now more than ever. To prevail, our struggles must
be won both on the intellectual battlefield and on the field of public
and political discourse.

My comments today about our community's effort in the United States to
press Turkey to return churches will, I hope, help inform you about
the urgency of such efforts and also inspire our friends and allies
around the world to join in this noble undertaking. We must continue
our efforts to prevail intellectually, but we also must not forget
that there is an essential battle to be joined in the halls of our
governments.

For what we seek is nothing less than a turning of the tide.

As we approach the end of a century in which all the moral and
material costs of the Armenian Genocide have fallen upon the victims
of this crime, we seek, for ourselves and all humanity, a new era, a
better century - guided by the ethic that the burdens of this genocide
- and all genocides - will, as they rightly must, be borne by its
perpetrator.

The return of churches, Turkey's surrender - voluntary or otherwise -
of the thousands of church properties it stole from Armenians,
Assyrians, Greeks, Syriacs, and other Christians prior to, during, and
after the Armenian Genocide era, would represent a meaningful first
step by the Turkish government toward accepting its responsibility for
a truthful and just resolution of this still unpunished crime against
humanity.

It would, as well, mark a major blow for the cause of international
religious freedom, in a corner of the world sadly known not for its
pluralism, but rather for the depths of its intolerance.

Our advocacy in Washington, DC on this issue has, over the past year,
taken its place alongside our Armenian Genocide recognition efforts,
our struggle against Ankara's denials, and our other work on issues of
concern to Armenian Americans. Of course, this initiative, like all of
our community's advocacy investments is, at its heart, aimed at
promoting Armenia's viability.

Our North Star - the light that guides us as we navigate the political
waters - is the survival of the Armenian people, the security of the
Armenian homeland, and the strengthening of the Armenian nation.

That is why we seek a truthful and just resolution of the Armenian Genocide.

We are not seeking truth simply for the sake of truth, for all the
world, and certainly we as Armenians, know all too well the reality of
the Armenian Genocide and the ongoing consequences of this crime.

We are in no need of further affirmation.

Nor of vengeance or vindication.

No. We seek truth in the name of justice.

And justice in the interest of survival.

That is why we struggle so mightily against Ankara's denial of truth
and obstruction of justice.

Reasons of morality, of course, compel us to demand respect for human
life and to stand up - in the name of our ancient faith and in the
spirit of the UN Convention on the Prevention and PUNISHMENT of
Genocide - against mass murder.

The cause of genocide prevention, a core moral imperative of our age,
requires that we - as witnesses to the depths of man's inhumanity to
man - bring the full measure of our devotion to ending forever the
cycle of genocide.

Turkey's denial of truth and obstruction of justice for the Armenian
Genocide sets a dangerous precedent - an unacceptable precedent -
emboldening potential perpetrators that their crimes can be committed
with impunity. Nowhere is this more urgent for us than in deterring
Turkey from committing renewed aggression against the Armenian people,
for Armenia cannot be safe as long as it is has on its border an
over-armed and unrepentant perpetrator of genocide.

We seek as well, for the citizens of Turkey, a transformation of
Turkish society. A Turkey that fully accepts responsibility for the
Armenian Genocide would very likely be one that is on the road to
rehabilitation into a more just and tolerant society.

We have seen few signs of progress on this front. In fact, in recent
years, all we've heard are alarm bells. In today's Turkey, Hrant
Dink's killer is treated like a hero and most of those guilty of his
assassination are let free.

Armenians are regularly threatened with renewed deportations while the
remaining Christian heritage of Anatolia is being systematically
erased. The country's most popular films and books are about scape
goating and striking down treasonous minorities.

Turkey today is not simply an unrepentant post-genocidal state, but a
pre-genocidal society, lashing out at imagined enemies and seeking out
its next targets.

What is needed is not simply a change in Turkey's policies, but rather
a profound, long-term movement, driven by both international and
domestic pressure, to rehabilitate Turkey into a modern, tolerant, and
pluralist society that - as proof of its reform - willingly forfeits
the fruits of its genocidal crimes.

For justice is vital for Armenia's survival.

Consider the vast and devastating demographic, material, geographic,
and cultural and legacy of the Armenian Genocide. The core elements of
Armenian viability were nearly destroyed forever.

This concern is - very clearly - not just about our past. For upon a
just resolution of this crime rests the very ability of Armenians to
restore the elements of viability that have long sustained our nation
and to finally close the wounds of genocide that so crippled - and,
because they are so deep, may yet kill - our poor and orphaned nation.

These are the stakes.

At risk is our very survival.

Not our dignity, or simply our pride, but our very place at the table
of nations.

That is why we see seek the truth. That is why we demand justice.

And part of justice, perhaps among the first measures that can
realistically be secured, is the return of our sacred sites.

A first front - but not a final one - in a long struggle for our survival.

Our Church - as always - at the fore, fighting for justice, and truth,
and an enduring peace among men.

Our efforts on this front, as have been widely reported, began with
the introduction, on June 15th of last year, of H.Res.306 - the
"Return of Churches" resolution - by two of the most senior members of
the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Ed Royce and Howard Berman. This
religious freedom measure was launched in parallel with the Armenian
Genocide Resolution, the genocide-prevention measure that we have
traditionally advanced through Congress.

Congressman Royce launched H.Res.306 by stating: "Conditions in Turkey
have deteriorated with violent hate crimes increasingly linked to
religion. My resolution urges Turkey to protect its vulnerable
religious minorities."

His Democratic colleague, the Ranking Member of the panel, Howard
Berman, sharing his concerns, stated: "By expropriating church
properties, harassing worshippers, and refusing to grant full legal
status to some Christian groups, Turkey has failed to fulfill its
obligation as a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights, which requires 'freedom of thought, conscience, and
religion.'"

We were gratified by the broad, bipartisan support this resolution
garnered. It was launched with numerous original co-sponsors,
including the co-chairs of the Human Rights, Hellenic, and Armenian
Caucuses.

The resolution's text showed that it called upon the government of
Turkey to honor its international obligations to return confiscated
Christian church properties and to fully respect the rights of all
Christians, among them the Armenians, Greeks, Assyrians, Pontians, and
Arameans (Syriacs), who have lived for thousands of years on what is
present-day Turkey.

The resolution called on the U.S. Secretary of State, in all official
bilateral contacts, to press the Turkish government to:

1) end all forms of religious discrimination;

2) 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;

3) return to their rightful owners all Christian 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; and

4) allow the rightful Christian church and lay owners of Christian
church properties, without hindrance or restriction, to preserve,
reconstruct, and repair, as they see fit, all Christian churches and
other places of worship, monasteries, schools, hospitals, monuments,
relics, holy sites, and other religious properties within Turkey.

This legislation was crafted to speak powerfully to Americans, who are
fundamentally committed to the principle of religious liberty. It has,
as you know, long been a priority for American citizens to seek for
others around the world the same right to worship in freedom that they
enjoy in the United States.

It also spoke meaningfully to Armenians and our allies, who share a
devotion to a truthful and just resolution of the Armenian Genocide,
that morally and materially makes whole the victims of this horrific
crime.

Its immediate purpose was directly challenging and then to eventually
reverse the vast destruction visited upon religious sites and the
theft of church properties during the Armenian Genocide as well as
Turkey's official and ongoing, post-genocide destruction and
desecration of holy sites and discrimination against Christian
communities.

Through its adoption, its sponsors sought to add the powerful voice of
the U.S. Congress - and the full moral authority of the American
people - to the international defense of religious freedom for the
Christian nations residing within the borders of present-day Turkey.

Part of building support for this measure was educating legislators
about the history of Armenians, Greeks, Assyrians, Pontians, and
Arameans (Syriacs), who have long lived on what is present-day Turkey.
Another key element was reaching out to new allies among traditional
American faith-based groups, including evangelicals and others
sometimes known as Christian conservatives.

Many Representatives were surprised to learn that these nations, many
thousands of years before the establishment of the Ottoman Empire,
gave birth to great civilizations, each with their own rich civic,
religious, and cultural heritage. These nations were, upon these
Biblical lands, among the first Christians, dating back to the time of
the travels through Anatolia by the Apostles Thaddeus and Bartholomew.

It held great meaning for Members of the U.S. Congress that the
territory of present-day Turkey is today home to many of the most
important centers of early Christianity - most notably Nicaea,
Ephesus, Chalcedon, and Constantinople, but also that the Turkish
government has systematically sought to erase this remarkably rich
Christian legacy, including through the destruction of thousands of
religious sites.

The destruction of these holy places accelerated during the 1890's and
through the Armenian Genocide era.

The Armenian Genocide and, more broadly, Ottoman Turkey's genocidal
drive to eliminate its entire Christian population, marked a terrible
watershed in the histories of the Christians of these lands, as the
Turkish leadership shifted from a policy of violence and oppression to
one of an outright, systematic, intentional, and state-implemented
campaign of ethnic and cultural extermination.

The Republic of Turkey, legal heir to the Ottomans, continued these
genocidal policies against the remaining Christian population, through
ethnic-cleansing, organized massacres, destruction of churches and
religious sites, illegal expropriation of properties, discriminatory
policies, restrictions on worship, and other means.

Estimates are that of the well over 2,000 Armenian churches, which
existed in the early 1900's, far fewer than 50 are functioning today.

Perhaps as few as 200 even remain standing today. The rest have been
ground into dust. And, only a small fraction of the historic
Christian population that once populated Anatolia remains today in
modern Turkey to care for their cultural heritage.

Let me pause for a moment to impress upon you just how very sensitive
a matter religious rights - and in particular Christian issues - are
in modern-day American civic life.

Last year, President Obama's nominee to serve as U.S. Ambassador to
Turkey, Francis Ricciardone, was asked at his confirmation hearing, at
our direct urging, how many of the pre-1915 Christian churches in
Turkey were still operating.

When he answered that a majority still were - a patently inaccurate
response that echoed Ankara's false narrative of tolerance and
pluralism - his confirmation process froze in its tracks.

It only went forward after he responded to Senate protests and
Armenian American community outrage by publicly withdrawing his
response and officially correcting his answer.

We must, as we did in this instance, publically and forcefully
confront those who deny the truth about the genocide and its ongoing
impact; for our failure to do so would allow these hateful denials to
gain credibility.

Returning to the plight of Christians in Turkey, it's clear that the
endangered Christian communities within Turkey's present-day borders
continue, to this day, to endure oppressive restrictions imposed by
the government of Turkey on their right to practice their faith in
their historic places of worship. These endangered sites - at least
those that remain - are, nearly all, still today in Turkish hands as a
direct result of genocide. Many other properties - thousands now
emptied of even ruins - are also illegally in Turkey's possession.

The remaining Christians in Turkey are, all too often, prevented from
praying in their historic churches, which have been desecrated,
sometimes used as storage sheds, and in some cases, even turned into
barns.

In very rare instances - such as the Akhtamar Church - Turkey has
undertaken repairs for transparently cynical public relations reasons,
but refused to return religious properties to their rightful church
owners, instead converting them into museums, where prayer, as a rule,
is prohibited.

And, by the restoration of these properties to their rightful Armenian
owners, we mean the Holy See of Etchmiadzin, the Holy See of Cilicia,
the Armenian Catholic Church, the Armenian Evangelical Church, and the
Patriarchates of Jerusalem and Constantinople.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, established by
Congress, recently designated Turkey as one of a handful of countries
on its watch list for a third consecutive year. It has concluded that:
"Over the previous five decades, the [Turkish] state has, using
convoluted regulations and undemocratic laws, confiscated hundreds of
religious minority properties, primarily those belonging to the Greek
Orthodox community, as well as Armenian Orthodox, Catholics, and Jews.
. . The state also has closed seminaries, denying these communities
the right to train clergy."

In 2009, Bartholomew I, the Ecumenical Christian Orthodox Patriarch of
Constantinople, appeared on CBS's 60 Minutes and reported that
Turkey's Christians were second class citizens and that he personally
felt "crucified by a state that wanted to see his church die out."

Now, as you might expect, addressing this matter in the United States
presents both challenges and opportunities.

In January 2011, President Obama noted - generically - the importance
of "bear[ing] witness to those who are persecuted or attacked because
of their faith" and President Bush declared in 2009, "No human freedom
is more fundamental than the right to worship in accordance with one's
conscience." But neither did anything to protect or promote the rights
of Armenians and other Christians in Turkey.

The U.S. State Department, which often goes to great and frequently
unreasonable and even irrational lengths to excuse and apologize for
Turkey's conduct, has actually criticized the persecution of
Christians in Turkey, including the improper confiscation of their
properties. This position is a testament to the high priority American
citizens give to religious liberty.

The United States, as a nation that was, quite literally, founded upon
a belief in religious liberty, has a long and proud tradition of
actively promoting and defending freedom of faith around the world.

Our own Bill of Rights safeguards religious freedom for Americans and
our longstanding leadership in championing the Universal Declaration
of Human Rights and other international covenants has helped protect
freedom of faith across the globe. America's enduring commitment to
religious freedom was reaffirmed in the International Religious
Freedom Act of 1998, and has been underscored in countless pieces of
specific legislation.

We carefully studied the American precedents. Here are a few examples:

-- Just last year, the U.S. House passed H.Res.1631, which called for
the protection of minority religious communities and places of worship
in the illegally occupied portion of Cyprus.

-- H.Res.562, passed by the House during the 105th Congress, cited the
confiscation of property by foreign governments as a means of
victimizing minority populations, and, specifically, urged foreign
governments to return wrongfully expropriated properties to religious
communities.

-- H.Con.Res.371, passed by the House during the 110th Congress,
called on foreign governments to return looted and confiscated
properties to their rightful owners or, where restitution was not
possible, to pay equitable compensation.

What we found is what we always expected, that the U.S. Congress is a
champion for religious liberty, but had yet to direct its attention in
this regard to the challenges presented by Turkey's violence and
wholesale intolerance toward its Christian minorities.

The Turkish government stridently opposed this effort to end
faith-based discrimination, promote religious tolerance, and secure
the rightful return of Christian churches, not just because they
reject responsibility for past sins - for they know their guilt better
then anyone - but for their naked fear of the implications for future
demands for reparations.

The State Department - from Ankara to Washington, DC - pressed hard on
Congress to block even the consideration of H.Res.306. Not - it must
be stressed - because they believed it did not reflect the American
view on the religious rights of Christians in Turkey, but precisely
because they knew that it did. This reasoning reflects the fundamental
disconnect of a failed foreign policy that prioritizes the
sensitivities of the most extremely intolerant elements of Turkish
society over the core moral values of the American people.

This bipartisan measure attacked, head-on, the core Ottoman and
Kemalist myths about Turkey as a model of tolerance and pluralism.

It revealed Turkey's token steps and half-measures as political stunts
- like its conversion of the church at Akhtamar into a museum -
setting a real and reasonable bar for the Turkish government to meet -
namely, full freedom of faith and a total return of stolen religious
properties.

We saw Turkey go after H.Res.306 in every way possible. Soft attacks,
saying it was unnecessary. Harsher attacks that it would be
counter-productive given all the great strides that the Turkish
government is supposedly making. Diplomatic attacks saying that its
adoption would somehow upset the fragile Turkey-Armenia Protocols
process. And, finally, angry attacks, seeking to bully and intimidate
U.S. legislators.

These assaults did result in the shameful opposition of the Obama
Administration to H.Res.306, but they failed to sway even one vote. On
July 20th, the Foreign Affairs Committee voted 43 to 1 to pass this
measure, with the sole dissenting voice coming from a libertarian who
opposes nearly every human rights measure brought before this panel.

Soon after this Committee vote, and in the wake of series of judgments
on religious property issues in European courts, Turkey's Prime
Minister issued an announcement - very limited in scope to be sure,
but meaningful nonetheless - regarding the rights of churches and
others to seek the return of certain confiscated religious properties
under a 1936 law, which sadly only applied to 2-3% of the church
properties confiscated by Turkey.

The fact that the Prime Minister felt the need to respond to this
issue is very telling. Even this token defensive step, meant to
minimize Turkey's obligations, was not an act of charity by Mr.
Erdogan, but rather a choice forced upon him.

This initial step was followed by an unprecedented letter to the ANCA
by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, reiterating the State
Department's support for religious freedom in Turkey and the
restoration, by the Turkish government, of confiscated religious
properties to their rightful owners. These are small but momentous
steps of progress.

We welcomed the Secretary's support, urged her to stand firm on this
matter, and offered our help in delivering concrete results toward a
policy that, taken to its logical fruition, would help bring about a
new era of American-Turkish relations - based on the principles of
fairness, tolerance, and mutual respect - while also, facilitating
meaningful progress toward a truthful, just, and comprehensive
resolution of the Armenian Genocide. Vehapar Aram I also wrote to
Secretary Clinton expressing a similar perspective.

A few months later, as a result of our advocacy efforts, on December
13th of last year, the full House of Representatives passed H.Res.306
by an overwhelming voice vote.

We welcomed this vote as a powerful victory for religious freedom and
as a reflection of the growing consensus that Turkey must - starting
with the return of thousands of stolen Christian churches properties
and holy sites - accept its responsibilities for the full moral and
material implications of a truthful and just resolution of the
Armenian Genocide. So did Members of Congress, from across the
political spectrum:

Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA): Religious tolerance has long been a problem for
Turkey. Turkey has yet to remedy the desecration of the religious
properties of over 2 million Armenians and Greeks and Assyrians and
Syriacs over the last 100 years. Until these obligations are
fulfilled, religious freedom will remain elusive and, frankly,
relations with the United States will suffer. Prime Minister Erdogan
recently issued a decree to return confiscated church properties that
were taken after 1936, but the majority of confiscated religious
properties, of course, were taken prior to 1936. . . We are sending a
signal today that Turkey should reassess the cutoff date.

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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