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H.R. 4347, the Turkey Christian Churches Accountability Act, has just been introduced in the U.S. Congress, and we need your help to get it passed.
The bipartisan bill, introduced by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) and Ranking Democrat Eliot Engel (D-NY), seeks to draw much-needed attention on the status of Christian and minority religious sites and institutions in Turkey and in occupied Cyprus. Specifically, the bill:
require[s] the Secretary of State to provide an annual report to Congress regarding United States Government efforts to survey and secure the return, protection, and restoration of stolen, confiscated, or otherwise unreturned Christian properties in the Republic of Turkey and in those areas currently occupied by the Turkish military in northern Cyprus.
Here’s Chairman Royce explaining why we need this bill to pass:
“Over decades, Christian church properties, particularly those belonging to the Armenian, Syriac, and Greek Orthodox communities have been either violently overtaken or illegally confiscated by Turkish authorities under various excuses. These churches under Turkish control have been looted, converted to mosques, storehouses, casinos, vandalized and often irreparably damaged.”
“Vulnerable religious minorities deserve more than just piecemeal returns of their stolen religious properties. It is important that the United States continue to encourage Turkish leaders to uphold their commitments and return all remaining properties without further delay. This bill will make promoting religious freedom and tolerance in Turkey a U.S. diplomatic priority.”
And here’s why Rep. Engel signed on as a co-sponsor:
“Armenian, Syriac, and Greek Orthodox communities in Turkey have for many years been seeking the return of their confiscated properties. The claims of these communities must be respected and addressed in a comprehensive and timely manner. This legislation calls on the Republic of Turkey to meet its international obligations, and urges the United States to prioritize the return of unlawfully seized religious properties in order to begin to resolve the legitimate claims of these communities.”
The bill doesn’t simply make it U.S. policy to push for the return of those unlawfully seized religious properties. It also notes that “the Government of Turkey, in contravention of its international legal obligations, refuses to recognize the 2,000-year-old Sacred See of the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s international status, has confiscated the large majority of the assets and properties of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, Greek cultural and educational foundations, maintains that candidates for the position of Ecumenical Patriarch must be Turkish citizens, and continues to refuse to reopen the Theological School at Halki, thus impeding training and succession for the Greek Orthodox clergy in Turkey.”
For far too long, Turkey has been allowed to trample on the rights of its religious minorities. Now is the time for Turkey to understand that the world is watching and waiting for it remedy this continued injustice.
You can be sure that the Turkish government and its lobbyists will do everything it can to ensure that this bill won’t even get to the floor of the House. That’s why why we need you to write a letter to your Representative right now and ask them to support H.R. 4347.
We’ve already created a sample letter for you to work with. Click below and get started:Back to top