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AHI Applauds Committee Passage of Resolution Calling on Turkey to Reopen Halki Theological School
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Demetra Atsaloglou
June 11, 2012—No. 36 (202) 785-8430

AHI Applauds Committee Passage of Resolution Calling on Turkey to Reopen Halki Theological School

Welcomes Congressional Statements on Religious Freedom in Turkey

WASHINGTON, DC — The American Hellenic Institute (AHI) applauds passage of a congressional resolution by the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs that calls upon the Government of Turkey to facilitate the reopening of the Ecumenical Patriarchate's Theological School of Halki without condition or further delay

U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), member, House Committee on Foreign Affairs, and co-chair, Congressional Caucus on Hellenic Issues, introduced the resolution, which passed in the committee by unanimous consent.

“We thank Congressman Bilirakis for spearheading this legislative initiative, and we applaud the House Foreign Affairs Committee, under the chairmanship of Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, for unanimously passing the resolution,” said AHI President Nick Larigakis. “We look forward to its adoption by the House of Representatives.”

The resolution, H.Res.506, currently has 34 co-sponsors and wide bipartisan support, including House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Ranking Member Howard Berman (D-CA).

“For far too long, Turkey has dragged its feet on religious freedom for all minorities within its borders,” said President Larigakis. “This is clearly evident as it is designated a ‘country of particular concern’ by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom. It is time for Turkey to make serious advances with respect to religious freedom starting with the reopening of Halki Theological School.”

AHI Welcomes Senior Foreign Affairs Committee Member’s Statement

In addition, AHI welcomed a statement by U.S. Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), a senior member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, which conveyed support for religious freedom for the Ecumenical Patriarchate and concern about its ability to survive. He stated:

"Turkey is the only country not to recognize the Ecumenical Patriarch. Unless Turkey reverses course, the Patriarch will disappear in the foreseeable future. As the spiritual beacon to millions of Orthodox Christians, this is something we cannot accept.

"Turkey is trying to freeze out the church. Without this seminary, the church can’t train new priests, potential new patriarchs. As some have said, it’s as if Rome shut down the College of Cardinals.

"For the sake of 300 million Orthodox Christian’s around the world who look to the Ecumenical Patriarch for spiritual guidance, we cannot let the Turkish government destroy this vital institution."

In addition to being a proponent of H.Res.506, Congressman Royce championed H.Res.306, which passed the U.S. House of Representatives in December 2011. The resolution urged Turkey to end religious discrimination, cease all restrictions on gatherings for religious prayer and education, and return illegally confiscated church property.

The American Hellenic Institute (AHI) is an independent non-profit Greek American public policy center that works to strengthen relations between the United States and Greece and Cyprus, and within the Greek American community.

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For additional information, please contact Demetra Atsaloglou at (202) 785-8430 or at pr@ahiworld.org. For general information about the activities of AHI, please see our website at http://www.ahiworld.org.