Accounting Of Confiscated Turkish Churches Sought


Glendale News Press, CA
July 4 2014

Area’s Armenian community leaders applaud as bill passes through the
House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

By Brittany Levine July 4, 2014 | 11:11 a.m.

Armenian community leaders in Glendale and Burbank are cheering
this week as a congressional bill that calls for an accounting of
confiscated Christian churches, monasteries, and other religious
properties in Turkey and their eventual return to their former
Christian owners has transcended an initial hurdle.

The bill, called the Turkey Christian Churches Accountability Act,
passed the House Committee on Foreign Affairs last week. Although the
bill has several more steps to go, including getting on the schedule to
be reviewed by the full House of Representatives, Armenian community
leaders are inspired by its progress, tying it to a larger fight for
recognition of the Armenian Genocide of 1915-18 at the hands of the
Ottoman Turks.

“The issue of the genocide has been muffled. It has been muted,”
Armen Hovannisian, president of the Armenian Bar Assn., said by phone
this week. “This is a wonderful change, a breathtaking inspiration.”

Although American government officials have individually recognized
the genocide, American presidents and Turkish leaders have not.

Hovannisian said the bill was a welcome sign as Armenians worldwide
will commemorate the 100th anniversary of the genocide next year.

Turkish authorities, though, denounced the bill.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry lashed out last week, condemning the
bill in a statement for its “groundless criticism, false information
and baseless accusations on the situation of Christian heritage in
Turkey and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.”

The statement goes on to describe bill proponents as “anti-Turkish
circles in the U.S. Congress” and no matter how far it goes, it is
“null and void as far as Turkey is concerned.”

It’s not unusual for Congress to pass a bill requesting action from
another nation that may be adverse to the initiative, Hovannisian said.

According to the bill, introduced by Rep. Ed Royce (R-Fullerton) and
Rep. Eliot Engel (D-New York), Christian communities have faced many
obstacles to regain control over stolen and confiscated properties,
some of which have been destroyed or converted into mosques, storage
facilities or museums. Although Turkish authorities have worked to
return some properties in the past, there is more to be done, the
bill states.

In addition to the Armenian Bar Assn., Archbishop Moushegh
Mardirossian, prelate of the Armenian Apostolic Church of America
Western Prelacy headquartered in La Crescenta, Rev. Joseph Matossian,
minister to the Armenian Evangelical United of North America based in
Glendale, Archbishop Hovnan Derderian, primate of the Western Diocese
of the Armenian Church of North America located in Burbank and the
Armenian National Committee of America supported the bill.

“With profound thanks and gratitude we salute this righteous and bold
decision by the House Foreign Affairs Committee,” Mardirossian said
in a statement Thursday. “With hopeful anticipation we look forward
to the day when our sacred properties are returned to their rightful
owners and all religious and ethnic minorities can live in peace
without threat of persecution.”

Matossian echoed his optimism.

“It’s not a show. Hopefully it will proceed, but it needs to be
pursued. Perseverance is important, focusing on the issue is important
and marching forward,” he said. “I believe in going all the way. You
just don’t start the match or tournament or something just to stop
as it gets a little tough.”


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