Rep. Watson Alerts Colleagues To Turkey’s Token Efforts To Use Akhta

30.03.2007 10:20

Congresswoman Diane Watson, a leading member of the House Foreign
Affairs Committee, today warned her colleagues not to be misled by
the Turkish government’s token efforts to use the renovation of a
single Armenian Church to obscure its longstanding policy of destroying
Armenian cultural heritage and denying the Armenian Genocide, reported
the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).

"We thank Congresswoman Watson for her work in alerting her colleagues
to the true motivations behind this token – and all too transparent
– effort by the Turkish government to draw attention away from
its anti-Armenian policies," said ANCA Executive Director Aram
Hamparian. "It is clearly not an act of tolerance for Turkish leaders
to turn an ancient and sacred church, with profound religious meaning
for Armenians worldwide, into a secular museum, upon which a cross
is forbidden and within which prayer is prohibited."

In her letter on the day of opening the Holy Cross Church on Akhtamar
Island, in Lake Van, as a museum, she noted that, "the Turkish
government is holding an event to tout the rehabilitation of an
Armenian Church. Unfortunately, this event obscures the reality that
hundreds of Christian Armenian Churches in Turkey, some dating as
far back as the 4th century, have been neglected and even egregiously

Congresswoman Watson explained that, "Armenia, which was the first
nation to adopt Christianity as a state religion in 301 A.D.,
has a remarkably rich history of ancient churches and Christian
artifacts. Sadly, the Turkish government – which still, against all
evidence, denies the Armenian Genocide – continues to actively pursue
the eradication of Armenian ancient monuments. It is a desperate
and malicious campaign, which began in 1915, to erase the Armenian
people’s physical and cultural existence in their historic homeland."

The Los Angeles legislator closed her letter by pointing out that,
"only under great international pressure has the Turkish government
begrudgingly preserved this single Armenian Church, a holy site that
was already widely recognized as a world treasure. This token effort
stands in stark contrast to the hundreds of Armenian Churches that
have been and continue to be neglected, deliberately damaged, and
often entirely destroyed in Turkey and Azerbaijan."

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