I am writing to ask you to please cosponsor a religious freedom measure introduced by Senators Feinstein and Brown, calling upon the government of Turkey to honor its international obligations to return confiscated Christian church properties and fully respect the rights of Christians to practice their faith in freedom.
This bipartisan effort to press Turkey to safeguard the Christian community and heritage within its present-day borders reflects America's enduring commitment to religious freedom, as so powerfully reaffirmed in the enactment by Congress of the International Religious Freedom Act, and represented, on the international stage, by America's leadership in supporting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The U.S. House passed an identical measure, H.Res.306, late last year.
As you know, Armenians, Assyrians and Pontian Greeks have long lived in present-day Turkey. Thousands of years before the establishment of the Ottoman Empire, they gave birth to great civilizations and established a rich civic, religious and cultural heritage. They were, upon these ancient and biblical lands, among the first Christians, dating back to the travels through Anatolia of the Apostles Thaddeus and Bartholomew and the evangelization of the Assyrian City-State of Edessa now called Urfa located in Southern part of today’s Turkey.
During the World War I-era, after centuries of growing intolerance and persecution, Ottoman Turkey and its Kurdish allies perpetrated a government-sponsored campaign of Jihad against its Christians subjects, resulting in the murder of over 2,000,000 Armenians, Assyrians and Pontian Greeks, and the forced deportation of hundreds of thousands from their homelands of thousands of years. The Republic of Turkey, heir to the Ottomans, continued these genocidal policies against the remaining Christian population, through ethnic-murder, rape, destruction of churches and religious sites, illegal expropriation of properties, discriminatory policies, restrictions on worship, and other means. As a result, only a small fraction of the historic Christian population that once populated Anatolia remains in modern Turkey.
The endangered Christian communities within the borders of present-day Turkey, in addition to all the crimes and persecutions visited upon them throughout their histories, continue, to this day, to endure oppressive restrictions imposed by the government of Turkey on their ability to worship in freedom in their historic places of worship, which are still today in Turkish hands as the result of genocide. A good example of the continued State sponsored intolerance and discrimination policies against the Christian community is the recent Turkish Supreme court’s decision to confiscate land owned by the St. Gabriel monastery which was founded in 397 AD and the labeling of Assyrians as “occupiers”.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom recently designated Turkey as one of a handful of countries on their watch list for a third consecutive year. The State Department has documented the persecution of Christians in Turkey, including the improper confiscation of their properties. The remaining Christians in Turkey are, all too often, prevented from praying in their historic churches, many of which are desecrated on a daily basis and even used as storage sheds. In very rare instances, Turkey has undertaken repairs of selected Christian churches, but refused to return them to the rightful church owners, and instead converting them into museums, where prayer, as a rule, is prohibited.
This measure asks simply that the government of Turkey honor its obligations under international treaties and human rights law to return Christian church properties and respect the rights of Christians to practice their faiths in freedom.
I am hopeful that you will join this measure as a co-sponsor and work toward its consideration and its adoption at the first opportunity. Thank you for your consideration of my concerns. If you have any questions on this measure, please contact the lead authors, or American Mesopotamian Organization (AMO) at 323-454-2237.
David William Lazar
This petition closed almost 2 years ago
Earlier this year Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Scott Brown (R-MA) and Mark Kirk (R-IL) introduced "Return of Churches" legislation, calling on Turkey to return stolen Christian churches and to...
Earlier this year Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Scott Brown (R-MA) and Mark Kirk (R-IL) introduced "Return of Churches" legislation, calling on Turkey to return stolen Christian churches and to end discrimination against surviving Christian communities. A similar measure (H. RES. 306) was adopted by the U.S. House of Representatives in December, 2011.
The recent Turkish Supreme court's decision to confiscate the property owned by the Syriac Orthodox Church Mor (St.) Gabriel monastery and its declaration that Assyrians are "occupiers" is only a continuation of the same Ottoman/ Turkish policies of Genocide and religious persecution of non-Muslim ethnic groups of WWI and before which resulted in the death of over 2 million Armenians, Assyrians and Pontian Greeks and the forced deportation of hundreds of thousands of them.
We ask that you spend less than two minutes today and request that your U.S. Senators co-sponsor and work for the adoption of the "Return of Churches" resolution. Simply type your name below and then input your postal address, email address and send your message to your Senators.