Sunday, March 25, 2007

ANCC Condemns Aghtamar Church Restoration as Public Relations Stunt

March 23, 2007
Armenian National Committee of Canada
Contact: Roupen Kouyoumjian
(613) 235-2622

Ottawa- The official opening of the restored Church of Sourp Khatch (Holy Cross) on the island of Aghtamar is another demonstration of the Turkish Government’s dishonesty and crass political opportunism.

The restoration of the church (built in 921 A.D.) should have been an opportunity for Turkey to express remorse for its 1915 crime of genocide against its Armenian population, and to initiate a genuine reconciliation with the Armenian people. Instead, the Turkish Government is involved in window- dressing and public relations stunts to divert attention from the international community’s increased pressure and rebuke for its denial of the Armenian Genocide, the illegal blockade of Armenia, the suppression of freedom of speech in Turkey, the increased intolerance towards its minorities, and racist educational system.

To add insult to injury, the Turkish Government conveniently forgot to mention, in its invitation, the church’s Armenian nature, and disregarded the request of Turkey’s Armenian community spiritual leader (Patriarch Mesrob Mutafyan) to add a cross on top of the church, and to make it a worship place. Instead, the Turkish Government decided to convert the church to a museum to grab tourist money. It is also changed the name of the church to Turkish-sounding Akdamar.

It is ironic that at a time when the Turkish Government is engaged in a massive campaign of public relation to improve its image, over 1,400 Armenian historical monuments and cultural sites (the church of Kayseri turned to a sports center, the Naregavank to animal shelter, the Gaziantep church to a restaurant, the church in Kemaliye to a carpet company, the Armenian Catholic Church of Mush to a garbage dump) have been destroyed by a deliberate policy to erase any record of 3,000 years of Armenian presence in the region.

“We call on the Turkish Government to stop such blatant propaganda campaigns, to seek serious and meaningful dialogue with the Armenians after accepting its responsibility for the Genocide, and to lift the illegal blockade of the Armenian Republic,” stated Aris Babikian, Executive Director of the Armenian National Committee of Canada.

“For Turkey to be part of the civilized world and a respected member of the international community, Ankara should return the Church to its rightful owners and follow in the footsteps of the post-war German governments which have unambiguously recognized the Holocaust,” added Babikian.

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