Greek Reporter
June 27 2014

by Sotiria Nikolouli
Jun 27, 2014

The Committee on Foreign Affairs of the US House has passed the Turkey
Christian Churches Accountability Act (HR 4347), introduced by Chairman
Ed Royce, which requires an annual report from the State Department on
the status of stolen, confiscated or unreturned Christian properties
in Turkey and in the north of Cyprus.

On the passage of the Act, Chairman Royce said: "I have long
been concerned that Christian heritage sites in Turkey have been
deteriorating and disappearing in the face of hostile government
policies. Despite optimistic claims by Turkish leaders, a majority
of religious properties remain unreturned".

There is even, he added, legislation before the Turkish Parliament
"to convert the landmark Agia Sophia in Istanbul from a museum to
a mosque".

"The US must hold Turkish leaders to their promises. By passing
this legislation, the US sends a message to Turkey that it must
return church properties to their rightful owners, while providing
an objective measure of their progress each year," he concluded.

The draft law which was presented by Royce and the minority leader
Eliot Engel strengthens previous legislation (HR 306) that was adopted
unanimously by Congress in December 2011 and called on Turkey to
respect its international obligations and to return confiscated
fortunes of Christian churches and to fully respect the rights of
Christians to practice their religion.

The legislation specifically calls the US Secretary to record all
Christian churches, places of worship and other church properties,
including movable assets, such as works of art and objects from Turkey
and areas of the Republic of Cyprus under military occupation by
Turkey and that have been claimed as stolen, confiscated or illegally
removed from the owners of Christian churches.

It also requires a summary of that information to be included in
the annual reports of human rights and religious freedoms of the
State Department.

The legislation refers to the north of Cyprus. The legislation was
promoted by Greek American and Armenian American organisations.

After the Turkish invasion churches in the north were vandalized and
looted, and icons, frescoes and mosaics were removed. Much of the
stolen items have been traced in Europe's illegal antiquities trade
markets and in auctions around the world.

(source: CNA)