Breaking News: U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee Calls upon Turkey to Return Christian Properties

London, UK

Yesterday, 20 July 2011, the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee sent a powerful message to Turkey by adopting the Berman-Cicilline Amendment, with a vote of 43 to 1, that calls upon the Government of Turkey to guarantee religious freedom and return stolen properties to its diminishing indigenous Christian populations like the Armenians, Greeks and Arameans (Syriacs). 

U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Democrat Howard Berman was joined by Rep. David Cicilline in presenting the amendment to the Foreign Relations Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012, based upon language from H. Res. 306, the “Return of Churches” Resolution spearheaded by Rep. Ed Royce and Howard Berman, both senior members of the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee.

“We cannot express how grateful we are to all those who worked hard for this first step towards victory for justice, for true democracy and freedom of religion, association and thought in Turkey,” said Johny Messo, President of the Syriac Universal Alliance (SUA).

“The world has witnessed how and why Turkey’s Christian communities have dwindled in the past decades, if not century. In fact, their struggle for survival in their original homeland is still going on. Today, the Armenians, Greeks and Arameans are successfully cooperating to have their voices heard. Now it is high time the world wakes up and speaks up. We are hopeful that the USA will take the lead in safeguarding the Christian cultural heritage and its heirs in Turkey. The next step is the passage of H. Res. 306 in the House of Representatives. If the Government of Turkey truly wishes to free itself from the past and move forward, it should appreciate rather than oppose this Royce-Berman bill.”

For the Arameans (Syriacs), the aforesaid victory comes right after the famous Syriac Orthodox Saint Gabriel Monastery lost two crucial court cases. One against Turkey’s State Department of Treasury, the other against the State Department of Forestry. The earlier appeals to the Ankara Supreme Court by the Monastery, founded in 397 A.D., proved to be to no avail. Saint Gabriel Monastery has no other option left than to take the lost cases to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France, where the Aramean people worldwide believe justice will finally prevail.

Daniel Gabriel, SUA’s Human Rights and UN NGO Director, noted in this regard: “It is fantastic to see the world becoming aware of the Saint Gabriel Monastery, mentioned yesterday as a vivid example of expropriation of land by Turkey in the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee. In fact, there are numerous equal Aramean land and property cases that have been and continue to be confiscated in Southeast Turkey. All this mounts up to at least ten (10) million of square meters of land that may be lost, including the potential one (1) million of Saint Gabriel Monastery. The international community is not yet aware of all this. The SUA knew that Armenians and Greeks are facing the same issues, so the amendment is a great step forward in increasing awareness about this neglected matter.”



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