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viernes, 12 de agosto de 2011

MOST PRE-1915 CHRISTIAN CHURCHES IN TURKEY ARE


RICCIARDONE CLAIMS MOST PRE-1915 CHRISTIAN CHURCHES IN TURKEY ARE STILL OPERATING

 Ambassadorial Nominee's False Statement Comes in Response to Written Question from Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey

WASHINGTON, DC - Ambassador Francis Ricciardone, President Obama's
"recess" appointee to serve as U.S. Ambassador to Turkey, in a
written response to questions submitted to him by Senator Robert
Menendez (R-NJ), made the patently incorrect claim that "most of
the Christian churches functioning [on the territory of present-day
Turkey] prior to 1915 are still operating as churches," reported
the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).

"Ambassador Ricciardone's demonstrably false assertion betrays a
callous disregard for Ottoman Turkey's wholesale destruction of
Christian churches, and for the fate of the millions of Christian
faithful, who worshipped in their homeland within these holy sites
until their genocidal annihilation," said Aram Hamparian, Executive
Director of the ANCA.  "Whether his response is due to a truly
remarkable lack of awareness or, instead, to a willful distortion
of the facts of history to fit Ankara's genocide denial narrative,
this nominee has clearly shown he's unable to effectively advance
U.S. interests or American values as our nation's representative in
Ankara."

The historical record shows that of the over 2000 Armenian Churches
that were functioning on the territory of present-day Turkey in
1915, less than 50 operate today.

Whitewashing Religious Freedom Abuses in Turkey:

Ambassador Ricciardone's response fits into a pattern of statements
glossing over well-documented and far-reaching religious freedom
abuses in Turkey. Earlier this year, during his July confirmation
hearing, in response to Delaware Senator Chris Coons' question as
to what steps he had taken to promote religious freedom in Turkey,
Amb. Ricciardone offered this evasive answer:  "…very
interestingly, they [the Turkish Government] follow our debates
about personal freedom and religious freedom and they say 'Here is
how you can understand this, American Ambassador. In your country,
you have in recent years made a distinction between freedom of
religion and the concept of freedom from religion. For too long in
our modern republic we focused on preventing the intrusion of
religion in our national life and political life. We are quite
comfortable to be observant Muslims, please don't call us
Islamists, by the way,' they tell us, 'but to the extent someone is
praying as a Christian or a Jew, it really doesn't bother us at all
– why should it? It's no threat to the state, on the contrary, we
are rather proud of our diversity and we happy to have them do it.
As to their property issues, let us take a fresh look at this and
make sure they get justice.'"

This assessment is sharply at odds with reports by the U.S.
Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), which
raised the following alarm in its 2011 report: "The Turkish
government continues to impose serious limitations on freedom of
religion or belief, thereby threatening the continued vitality and
survival of minority religious communities in Turkey."

Reservations about the Ambassador's willingness to accept the
Turkish government's talking points on religious tolerance at face
value echo concerns expressed last fall by then Senator Sam
Brownback (R-KS), who, during the last session of Congress, placed
a hold on Ambassador Ricciardone's nomination to serve as U.S.
Ambassador to Turkey.  In an August 16, 2010, letter to Secretary
Clinton, Sen. Brownback voiced disapproval of Ricciardone's tenure
as U.S. Ambassador to Egypt, noting, among other things, that "he
quickly adopted the positions and arguments of his Egyptian
diplomatic counterparts."

In the wake of Senator Brownback's hold, President Obama
circumvented Senate objections by issuing a "recess appointment" of
Amb. Ricciardone.  The Senate must approve his nomination in the
upcoming months, if Ambassador Ricciardone is to continue to serve
in Turkey for more than one year, of the usual three-year
ambassadorial term.  The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will
likely take up his nomination upon their return from the August
Congressional recess.

The written exchange on this subject between Senator Menendez and
Ambassador Ricciardone is provided below:

Sen. Menendez: "To the best of your knowledge, approximately how
many of the more than 2,000 Christian churches functioning prior to
1915 on the territory of present-day Turkey are still operating
today as churches?"

Amb. Ricciardone: "Most of the Christian churches functioning prior
to 1915 are still operating as churches.  Some churches of
significance operate as museums.  The remaining have fallen into
disrepair or were converted to mosques for lack of use."

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