Washington, D.C. – Today, Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), Ranking Member of the Committee, introduced the Turkey Christian Churches Accountability Act (H.R. 4347). The legislation requires an annual report from the State Department on the status of stolen, confiscated or unreturned Christian properties in territories controlled by Turkey.
Chairman Royce said: “This legislation holds Turkey accountable for its international obligations to protect and promote human rights, and it calls attention to Turkish leaders’ broken promises to return church properties to their rightful owners. Over decades, Christian church properties, particularly those belonging to the Armenian, Syriac, and Greek Orthodox communities have been either violently overtaken or illegally confiscated by Turkish authorities under various excuses. These churches under Turkish control have been looted, converted to mosques, storehouses, casinos, vandalized and often irreparably damaged.”
“Vulnerable religious minorities deserve more than just piecemeal returns of their stolen religious properties. It is important that the United States continue to encourage Turkish leaders to uphold their commitments and return all remaining properties without further delay. This bill will make promoting religious freedom and tolerance in Turkey a U.S. diplomatic priority.”
Ranking Member Engel said: “The Republic of Turkey, and indeed all nations, have a responsibility to protect, restore, and return religious properties which have been unlawfully seized from their communities and rightful owners by state authorities. Armenian, Syriac, and Greek Orthodox communities in Turkey have for many years been seeking the return of their confiscated properties. The claims of these communities must be respected and addressed in a comprehensive and timely manner. This legislation calls on the Republic of Turkey to meet its international obligations, and urges the United States to prioritize the return of unlawfully seized religious properties in order to begin to resolve the legitimate claims of these communities.”