Senate Resolution 392 -Urging The Republic Of Turkey To Safeguard Its Christian Heritage And To Return Confiscated Church Properties -- (Senate - March 08, 2012)
[Page: S1543] GPO's PDF
Mr. BROWN of Massachusetts (for himself, Mrs. FEINSTEIN, and Mr. KIRK) submitted the following resolution; which was referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations:
S. Res. 392
Resolved, That it is the sense of the Senate that the Secretary of State, in all official contacts with officials and representatives of the Government of Turkey, should emphasize that the Government of Turkey should--
(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 community 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.
a. This biased resolution is not only an example of the lack of knowledge of the justifiable causes, but it is an abuse of the authority bestowed on honorable Senators disrespecting the U.S. Constitution, stipulating:
Clause 3: The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.
b. The resolution will serve nothing but damage the relations between USA and Turkey and above all, the interests of the Christian and other minorities in Turkey, who exercise full liberties as displayed in the Internet references given directly by the parties. The complainants are not the minorities living in Turkey but are some lobbies in USA, who really do not care much about the negative effects it would impose, if the Turkish Government would reciprocate! Below page proves the sentiments of a dedicated citizen of Armenian ethnicity, and what General Mc Arthur thought in the past: Possibly the signatories never saw Turkey or talked to Turks as friends. (Turks bore the second highest casualty in Korea after USA)!
c. If the esteemed Senators could have been neutral, they should have inquired as regards the whereabouts and return of Turkish mosques and monuments in the Balkan states where they ruled some 500 years or present Armenia which was 70% Moslem in 1850s, and where today you cannot find a single Moslem family or any Moslem building of any type. The signatories are herewith invited to belie or contradict the references herewith given and see with their own eyes the gravity of their fabrications.
http://www.mymerhaba.com/Armenian-Churches-in-Turkey-126.html:(Excerpt) “Since the establishment of the Istanbul Armenian Patriarchate in 1461, 55 Armenian Churches have been built. About 30 of them are still active and are listed below for your information” . [We counted about 50 active Armenian churches in all of Turkey. Considering the present Armenian community in Turkey as 60.000, this averages one active church for 1.200 persons. Alternatively in all USA we counted about 150 active Armenian churches for an estimated population of One Million, or one active church for 7.200 persons! This proves that Armenians in Turkey have six times more churches in service in Turkey compared to USA]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Armenian_Churches_in_Turkey: This link gives you the list of about 40 active monasteries in Turkey.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christianity_in_Turkey: For Orthodox faith Christians, refer to churches in service.
http://www.incilturk.com/kilise_adresleri.htm : This gives a list of several “Church Associations” in various cities in Turkey. For full list of active churches see references below.
http://www.greatistanbul.com/church.htm This shows a very few of diverse Christian Churches open to tourists in the very center of Istanbul.
HOSPITALS & NURSING Homes: (For Gregorian Armenians) Surp Pirgic in service since 1832 and (for Catholic Armenians) Surp Agop in service since 1831 (two) Armenian Hospitals and nursing homes.
Greeks have “Balikli Hospital” in service since 1753 and alike nursing home facilities.
Slander 1 : Discrimination: This is completely a big lie, manufactured in USA to defame Turks.
Slander 2: Ownership: In the Ottoman State system, land was the property of the State and Sultan and it would be only leased to those rendering great services. The lands where hospitals, schools and similar endowment facilities were built for the non Moslem Ottoman subjects were all donated by an edict of the Sultan. Turkish Republic honors the edicts of the sultans. These churches were always under their own community leadership and management, exempt of taxes or any Turkish interference.
Slander 3: Return of buildings: All buildings were built on lands donated by the state. The minorities which had revolted during the First World War and joined the enemies (Greeks and Armenians) were granted four times amnesty and permit to come back and reclaim their citizenship and properties.
First time with Batum Treaty in June 1918, second time with Mudros Cease Fire on Oct.30,1918 whereby Britain and France were in total control (and even the abrogated capitulations were reinstated) and thirdly with the Gumru Treaty in December 1920. The fourth amnesty was with the Lausanne Treaty in July 1923.
As regards the compensations demanded by USA which was not a signatory of the Lausanne Treaty, these have been settled and paid in full with letters of agreements (starting in 1934, finalized in 1937). Hence, USA has no right to demand and compensation or adjustments for US citizens and/or their properties.
Slander 4: Republic of Turkey is a sojourn State in best support of USA, whenever possible. The senators are extending their jurisdiction outside of the frontiers of USA, possibly because of some sympathies based on hearsays of certain lobbies, marring the strong alliance under NATO and jeopardizing the course of a perfect cooperation between the Administrations of the two best allies.
General knowledge: This part of the world is reputed for too many earth quakes throughout history being located between several fault lines. The damages have been caused by nature and there are thousands of historical sites that need to be reconstructed as a heritage. A few Armenian churches have been repaired with Turks’ tax money and the famous Aktamar Church underwent a major reconstruction paid by Turkey.
As regards Hagia Sophia, which was severely damaged by earthquakes, it was renovated in 1849 by Italian architects “with borrowed money” for which 1.5 million dollars of those days was spent and saved from loss.
The resolution stands as a black hole of the basic knowledge of history or today’s facts and proves how easily the US Representatives can be misguided by few profiteers marketing tales which go back only to 6.000 BC. What an irony that some persons presumed to be enlightened, prefer to speak for dogmas, instead of scientific facts such as exhibited by the Hubble telescope going back to millions of light years.
By Sukru Server Aya, 14 Mar 2012
Reject Religous Bigotry
The Amendment to the Fiscal Year 2012 Foreign Relations Authorization Act derives from a previous legislative effort by its sponsors, H.Res.306, which was a back-door version of the perennial “Armenian Genocide Resolution.” The Resolution accused the Ottoman Empire of “intentional destruction” of Christians – adopting the primary definition for genocide - and lumped together unrelated historical events and groups, without any legal or historical basis and context. Both H.Res.306 and the passed amendment feed on religious prejudices against Muslims, attempt to rewrite history without any real life impact, other than fanning religious animosity and perpetuating ancient conflicts at a time when Congress should be given the exact opposite message to the world.
The Amendment is motivated not by humanitarian ideals, but by political considerations designed to appease pro-Greek and pro-Armenian lobbies as it turns a blind eye to the gross violations against the cultural and sacred heritage, as well as religious freedoms of others, such as Muslims and other Christians in Armenia, Greece, as well as Greek Cyprus.
EXAMPLES OF DESTRUCTION OF RELIGIOUS AND CULTURAL HERITAGE:
Athens is the only European capital with no mosque. There are also no mosques in
Turkish mosques and cemeteries in Greece are frequently vandalized and desecrated, the perpetrators escape justice.
Turks in Greece are prevented from running their pious foundations, resulting in the confiscation or despair of their properties. Turks in Greece are frequently prevented from repairing their mosques and other religious sites. There are cases of prison sentences and fines for simply repairing a mosque.
Turkish historical and cultural heritage sites are neglected. The historical Fethiye Mosque in Athens is in despair and has remained closed despite Turkey’s offers to help with the restoration.
Greece does not recognize its Macedonian minority in Greece and does not allow the Macedonian Church to function in Greece.
There is only one functioning mosque, Blue Mosque (Goy Mescit) that remains in entire Armenia today in Yerevan, and one semi-destroyed non-functioning one, also in Yerevan. All other mosques have been destroyed. In the second half of the 19th Century alone, there used to be over 200 mosques in what are today the borders of Armenia.
According to a report by Forum 18, a Christian religious freedoms watchdog, on July 15, 2011, ‘Armenia's religious minorities face barriers to their exercising freedom of religion or belief from senior officials, politicians, media outlets and priests of the dominant Armenian Apostolic Church.’ Persecuted religous minorities included Pentecostals and Yehovah’s Witnesses. In addition, both the Collaboration For Democracy Centre and the Helsinki Committee of Armenia have documented numerous instances of official and media intolerance, leading to denials of freedom of religion or belief, Forum 18 reports.
16 out of 106 mosques in Greek Cyprus were totally ruined, 61 of them are deserted and falling apart. There are only 2 active mosques in Greek Cyprus, but both are without clergy due to Greek Cypriot restrictions.
TURKEY – THE REALITY:
There are 101 places of worship for less than 5,000 Greek Orthodox citizens of Turkey.
There are 55 (Gregorian, Catholic and Protestant) Armenian Churches in Turkey open to religious services of the nearly 60,000 Armenian citizens of Turkey.
There are 36 synagogues for about 25,000 Jewish citizens of Turkey.
Turkey has become the first country to implement a property verdict by the European
Court of Human Rights, returning a historical orphanage to the Greek Orthodox minority.
Turkey has restored 12 Christian and Jewish heritage sites, including 1 synagogue and 12 churches from 2003-2010, restoration continues at 2 synagogues, 2 monastery and 3 churches. Among the most notable Christian heritage sites restored by Turkey are the Akdamar Armenian church in Van and the Osk Vank Georgian church near Erzurum. A major restoration project is being undertaken by the Turkish Ministry of Culture and the World Monuments Fund to restore the historical Armenian heritage site of Ani in Kars, including the Ani Cathedral and the Church of the Holy Savior.
The passed Amendment is detrimental to the vital interests of the United States. The United States` fight against global terrorism demands that the US is perceived as an even-handed, fair defender of human and religious rights and freedoms, regardless of religion, race or ethnicity.
Consequently, we call on Members of Congress to reject this mentality and the religious bigotry it represents and adopt a balanced approach to safeguarding religious heritage and freedoms.
A MOMENTOUS AND APPRECIATED NEW STEP BY TURKEY
For almost a decade, religious minorities in Turkey have greatly benefited from a comprehensive reform process that aims to provide higher standards for all Turkish citizens, irrespective of their ethnic or religious backgrounds. In August 2011, Turkey took a new, momentous step, expressing the Turkish government’s commitment to improving religious freedom and tolerance.
On August 27, 2011, the Turkish government amended its Law on Foundations to improve and expand the scope of the legislation enabling the return and registration of the properties of non-Muslim community foundations.
The amended law provides that the immovable properties, cemeteries and fountains of the non-Muslim community foundations recorded in the “1936 Declaration” and registered in the name of Turkish public institutions, will be returned to the relevant non-Muslim community foundations, upon their request. The amendment also provides that the Treasury or the Directorate General of Foundations compensate the non-Muslim community foundations for those properties, which are currently registered in the name of third parties.
As a result of this new step, the foundations will be able to submit their applications and have their properties registered in their own names or be compensated.
Acknowledging the importance of this development, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said on September 13, 2011, during a briefing on the release of U.S. Department of State International Religious Freedom Report:
"We have also seen Turkey take serious steps to improve the climate for religious tolerance. The Turkish government issued a decree in August that invited non-Muslims to reclaim churches and synagogues that were confiscated 75 years ago. I applaud Prime Minister Erdogan's very important commitment to doing so."
In its 13th Annual Report on International Religious Freedom, the U.S. Department of State also underscored Turkey’s recent efforts: “During the reporting period, the government took steps to improve religious freedom. Notably the government permitted religious services to be held annually in historic Christian sites that had been turned into state museums after decades of disuse.” These positive statements have replaced the status of “no change” in the situation regarding religious freedom during the previous reporting periods.
Grounded in History, Reinforced by Other Recent Steps
Located at the crossroads of civilizations and home to people of many faiths, Turkey has attached the utmost importance to religious pluralism. Turkey takes pride that its homeland has provided a safe-haven to those fleeing religious persecution throughout history. Thanks to the deeply rooted tradition of religious tolerance that exists in Turkey, Muslims, Jews and Christians have lived together in peace and harmony for centuries.
In addition to the amendment of the Law of Foundations, the Turkish government has also recently taken similar steps to expand and secure religious freedoms, including:
In May 2010, the Prime Ministry issued a circular emphasizing that Turkey’s non-Muslim citizens – like all other Turkish citizens – share the right to enjoy and maintain their own identities and cultures in parallel to the national identity and culture of Turkey. Prime Minister Erdog(an has also urged all related government institutions and offices to act with utmost diligence on this matter.
The Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in Istanbul has recently been permitted to conduct masses at religiously significant venues that had been, due to disuse, rendered museums. Significantly, the Greek-Orthodox Church held a religious service at the Sumela Monastery in Trabzon in August 2010. The mass was officiated by Patriarch Bartholomeos, and approximately 4,000 Orthodox Christians from Turkey, Greece, Russia, Georgia and other countries attended.
In September 2010, for the first time since World War I, a religious service was organized by Turkish Armenians at the church on Akhtamar Island. Recently, the Greek Orthodox community and Turkish Armenians organized similar religious services in Sumela and Akhtamar. These religious services will be held annually.
In order to ensure the future viability of the Orthodox Church, the appointment of non-Turkish citizen metropolitans to the Patriarchate’s Holy Synod have been explicitly permitted since 2004. Furthermore, in 2010, Turkey offered citizenship to metropolitans of foreign nationality who chose to apply. Additionally issues regarding the residence permits of foreign clergy have been resolved.
On November 11, 2010, Turkish authorities returned a former orphanage on Büyükada to the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate following a decision by the European Court of Human Rights. On this occasion, the attorney representing the Patriarchate declared, “This marks a first in Europe. Turkey became the first country to implement a decision of the ECHR by returning the property. This should be an example for other countries.”
Correcting mischaracterizations of Turkey’s record
Although preserving the vast number of historical and religious sites that date back to the earliest times of human civilization is a tremendous challenge for any country, Turkey has restored numerous Christian and Jewish heritage sites. From 2003 to 2010, a total of 20 historic sites including eight churches, one synagogue and one monastery have been restored throughout Turkey. Restoration continues at three churches, two synagogues and one monastery, and one other church and one synagogue are scheduled to be restored in 2011.
Among the most notable Christian heritage sites restored are the Akhtamar Armenian church in Van (at a cost of $1.5 million) and the Osk Vank Georgian church near Erzurum. In addition, a major project is being undertaken by the Turkish Ministry of Culture and the World Monuments Fund to restore the Armenian heritage site of Ani in Kars, including the Ani Cathedral and the Church of the Holy Savior.
Given the significant reforms Turkey has made with respect to religious freedom and in light of the consistently poor record of some neighboring countries regarding religious freedoms of their Muslim and Turkish minorities, Turkey demands to be treated fairly and calls for an evenhanded approach in matters of religious freedom, which should be a universal right for all.
Embassy of the Republic of Turkey | 2525 Massachusetts Ave. NW | Washington, DC 20008