The co-chairs of the Congressional Caucus on Hellenic Issues have taken a new legislative initiative to protect the Ecumenical Patriarchate against Turkish abuses.
This bipartisan bill was signed by Democratic Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney and Republican Congressman Gus M. Bilirakis. The aim of the bill is to hold Turkey accountable for violating the religious freedoms of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, Greek Orthodox Christians and other religious minorities.
Commenting on the bill, Carolyn Maloney noted that “the Turkey and Ecumenical Patriarchate Religious Freedom Act of 2021 would apply meaningful pressure on Turkey to stop violating the religious freedoms of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
Without tangible repercussions from the United States, President Erdoğan will continue to operate with impunity and Turkey will maintain its campaign of religious discrimination against Greek Orthodox Christians, the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and other religious minorities.
As co-founder and co-chair of the Hellenic Caucus, I have long called on the Turkish government to respect the rights of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and reopen the Halki Seminary and this legislation is the action we must take to finally make that happen.”
On his part, Gus Bilirakis stressed that “the United States must remain consistent in enforcing the expectation of shared democratic values from our so-called allies, including the demonstration of a consistent respect for religious freedom.”
The bipartisan Turkey and Ecumenical Patriarchate Religious Freedom Act of 2021 would hold Turkey accountable for its campaign of religious discrimination and uphold our nation’s commitment to defending international religious freedom by:
Expressing the sense of Congress that putting Turkey on the Special Watch List would be a powerful and effective tool in highlighting the abuses of religious freedom in Turkey and against the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and that the President should, in accordance with the USCIRF’s recommendation, include Turkey on the Special Watch List;
Requiring the President – if the President ignores the USCIRF Annual Report’s recommendation to include Turkey on the Special Watch List – to submit a report to Congress that contains a detailed justification on the decision to ignore the USCIRF’s recommendation; and
Requiring the Secretary of State to submit a report to Congress on the State Department’s policy for promoting religious freedom in Turkey,
including a description of planned efforts to combat deteriorating conditions for religious freedom in Turkey, including diplomacy, foreign assistance, and other relevant efforts.
Greek American Community showed satisfaction with this initiative
The president of the American Hellenic Institute (AHI), Nick Larigakis, said that “it has been an honor for AHI to work with Congresswoman Maloney to build upon and strengthen previous legislation on Turkey’s systemic persecution of the Ecumenical Patriarchate with the introduction of The Turkey and Ecumenical Patriarchate Religious Freedom Act of 2021.
We commend Congresswoman Maloney for her decades-long commitment to safeguarding the rights of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and in the wake of the conversion of Hagia Sophia from a museum to a mosque, it is right and necessary to have a strong and bipartisan response from Congress. This legislation meets this need.”
The Supreme President of AHEPA, George Horiates, pointed out that “Turkey perpetually suppresses the religious freedom and human rights of its minority populations with impunity.
The Turkey and Ecumenical Patriarchate Religious Freedom Act of 2021 is important bipartisan legislation that will hold Turkey accountable for its intolerance and abysmal religious freedom record.”
On his part, Endy Zemenides, Executive Director of the Hellenic American Leadership Council, noted that “Congresswoman Maloney has long recognized that Turkey’s oppression of the Ecumenical Patriarchate threatens the very existence of Christianity in both Turkey and the greater Middle East.
The Biden Administration should follow the principled stance of Congresswoman Maloney on this issue. President Biden, who also has a strong record on the religious freedom of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, should build upon the precedent of the Pastor Brunson case and make it clear to Ankara that there will be consequences for its continued oppression of Christian minorities.”