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AHI Applauds Committee Passage of Turkey Christian Churches Accountability Act
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Georgea Polizos
June 27, 2014—No. 38 (202) 785-8430

AHI Applauds Committee Passage of Turkey Christian Churches Accountability Act

Legislation includes Rep. Bilirakis’ Language to Reopen Halki Seminary 

WASHINGTON, DC — The American Hellenic Institute (AHI) applauds passage of legislation by the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs that requires an annual report from the State Department on the status of stolen, confiscated or unreturned Christian properties in territories controlled by Turkey.  H.R.4347, the Turkey Christian Churches Accountability Act, also included language from U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis’ (R-FL) congressional resolution that calls 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. Ed Royce (R-CA), chairman, House Committee on Foreign Affairs, introduced H.R.4347 with the support of U.S. Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), ranking member, House Committee on Foreign Affairs. The legislation passed by voice vote. 

“We thank Chairman Royce for spearheading this legislative initiative with the bipartisan cooperation of Ranking Member Engel, and we applaud the House Foreign Affairs Committee for passing it,” President Nick Larigakis said.  “We also commend Congressman Bilirakis for working with the committee to ensure that his language to reopen the Theological School of Halki was included and adopted.  We call on the House of Representatives to bring the legislation to the Floor for passage.”

An effort to strip H.R.4347 of any mention of the Theological School of Halki, language pertaining to Turkish-occupied Cyprus, or requirement for State Department reporting by an amendment offered by U.S. Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) failed by voice vote.

“For far too long, Turkey has suppressed and stifled religious freedom for all minorities within its borders,” Larigakis said. “This is clearly evident by annual reports issued by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom and the State Department.  It is time for Turkey to make serious advances with respect to religious freedom, starting with the reopening of Halki Theological School. It is a major disappointment that certain legislators, such as Congressman Connolly, fail to see this fact, and instead, become apologists for Turkey’s dismal religious freedom record.”

The American Hellenic Institute is a non-profit Greek American think tank and 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 Georgea Polizos 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 and follow us on Twitter @TheAHIinDC