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House of Representatives Urges Turkey to Safeguard Christian Heritage, Return Confiscated Church Properties

House of Representatives Urges Turkey to Safeguard Christian Heritage, Return Confiscated Church Properties

Florida Representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Gus Bilirakis Cosponsor H. Res. 306

Washington, DC – This week, the U.S. House of Representatives adopted by voice vote H. Res. 306, legislation calling on the Republic of Turkey to protect its Christian heritage and return confiscated church properties. Introduced by Armenian Caucus Co-Chair Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), H. Res. 306 was cosponsored by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), both members of the Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues.

“This bipartisan bill reflects America’s values and represents an important step towards preserving the heritage of the Armenian community and other minority communities within Turkey,” stated the Legate of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church, Archbishop Vicken Aykazian in Washington, DC.

As amended, H. Res. 306 calls on Turkey to “end all forms of religious discrimination” and return confiscated church properties and artifacts. The revised bill mirrors the Berman-Cicilline amendment that was adopted by the House Foreign Affairs Committee by a vote of 43-1 earlier this year.

“It has been my privilege to be a strong voice for oppressed religious minorities throughout the world,” Congressman Bilirakis said. “I am pleased that my colleagues once again sent a strong message in support of religious freedom in a manner that transcends party politics by unanimously condemning Turkey for failing to safeguard its Christian heritage or return confiscated church properties,” stated Bilirakis.

In addition to resolution sponsor Congressman Royce, who along with his colleagues invoked the memory of the Armenian Genocide and Turkey’s continued genocide denial, the following Representatives spoke in favor of the legislation: Howard Berman (D-CA), Adam Schiff (D-CA), Brad Sherman (D-CA), Eliot Engel (D-NY) and Armenian Caucus Co-Chair Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ).  Turkish Caucus Co-Chair Rep. Edward Whitfield (R-KY) claimed time in opposition to the bill.

You can watch the debate on the bill here.