After years of religious discrimination, the United States House Committee on Foreign Affairs voted to adopt a Berman-Cicilline Amendment which aims to end the oppression of Turkey’s Christian minority.
The 43-1 house vote that added a “return of churches” passage to H.R. 2583, a State Department-Foreign Relation Authorization Act, called for the protection of Christian citizens. Armenian, Greek and Assyrian-Chaldean appear to be the groups most affected by the amendment that recognizes the mistreatment of their people practicing Christianity in Turkey.
The driving force behind the passage of the amendment was Republican California Representative Ed Royce, who said it is important to recognize the wrongs being committed against Christians in Turkey.
“Religious minorities are under grave threat in today's Turkey," said Royce, a Republican from California. "Rather than enjoying protection, very vulnerable religious minority groups including the Ecumenical Patriarchate of the Greek Orthodox Church are denied full legal status.”
Ken Hachikian, chairman of the Armenian National Committee of America, said the congressional committee vote was a step in the right direction for Christians in Turkey.
“We won this landmark victory in the face of years of Turkey’s lies about its supposed tolerance, and despite its token conversion of a few ancient churches,” said Hachikian, according to CNN-Turkey.
Archbishop Vicken Aykazian, Legate of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church, was in attendance when the congressional committee voted in favor of the bipartisan amendment. He expressed the importance of the vote.
“This is a vote of justice against injustice,” said Aykazian. “I hope that this will be the first of many steps towards preserving Armenian Christian heritage in Turkey.”
The United States House Committee on Foreign Affairs is responsible for overseeing and creating legislation regarding foreign assistance. This type of assistance includes security and health issues taking place overseas, according to the U.S. House of Representatives website.
The Berman-Cicilline Amendment recently passed by the committee encourages the Turkish government to honor international treaties and human rights laws.
The amendment encourages the Turkish government to "allow the rightful church and lay owners of Christian church properties, without hindrance or restriction, to organize and administer prayer services, religious education, clerical training, appointments, and succession, religious community gatherings, social services, including ministry to the needs of the poor and infirm, and other religious activities.”