Washington DC – Congressman Sherman (D – Sherman Oaks, CA) released the following statement regarding his work in Congress on Hellenic issues:
“As a senior member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and a member of the Congressional Caucus on Hellenic Issues, I am a supporter of a strong U.S.-Greek relationship,” said Congressman Sherman.
“Today, there are over 1.3 million American citizens of Greek ancestry residing in the United States, and a thriving Greek-American cultural community. Our political tradition is steeped in Greek philosophical thought. Greece is a strategic U.S. ally, and I have worked to strengthen cooperation between Athens and Washington.
”Read Congressman Sherman’s Full Statement:
Support for the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople
Religious freedom is a fundamental human right, and support for the rights of the Ecumenical Patriarch is no exception. I have made it clear that the Turkish government must stop interfering in the affairs of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. The Turkish requirement that only Turkish citizens can be selected as the Ecumenical Patriarch is unacceptable.
In March 2011, I joined with House Foreign Affairs Chairman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and several of my colleagues in a letter to the President to press Turkey on a number of issues in support of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. The letter stresses that the United States should push Turkey to cease its interference in the process of selecting Ecumenical Patriarchs and to drop the requirement that the Patriarch be a Turkish citizen. Turkey must also reopen the Halki Theological School to allow the Church to train future generations of Orthodox clerics. The Turkish government should grant the Ecumenical Patriarchate the legal status that would allow it to own property, employ church officials, and manage church finances.
On July 21, 2011, the House Foreign Affairs Committee approved an amendment urging Turkey to safeguard its Christian heritage. The amendment was based on H.Res. 306, “Urging the Republic of Turkey to safeguard its Christian heritage and to return confiscated church properties,” which was introduced by Congressman Ed Royce, myself, and others this session of Congress.
The amendment specifically urges the government of Turkey to honor its obligation under international treaties and human rights law to end all forms of religious discrimination. The amendment calls for Turkey to allow the rightful owners of Christian church properties to freely organize and administer prayer services, religious education, clerical training, appointments, and succession, religious community gatherings, social services, and other religious activities – without hindrance or restriction by the state. Additionally, the amendment calls on Turkey to return to their rightful owners all Christian churches and other places of worship, monasteries, schools, hospitals, monuments, relics, holy sites, and other religious properties.
In April 2011, I joined with Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney and others by cosponsoring H.Res.180, “Urging Turkey to respect the rights and religious freedoms of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.” The resolution calls upon Turkey to eliminate discrimination based on race or religion, and grant the Ecumenical Patriarch appropriate international recognition and ecclesiastic succession.
I believe that the full restoration of basic religious freedoms and human rights for the Ecumenical Patriarchate will benefit all Orthodox Christians. By promoting tolerance, peace, and stability in the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean regions, this restoration would also serve the national interests of the United States, Greece and Turkey as well. Restoring the Patriarch’s rights will speak to the rights of oppressed religious minorities worldwide.
I am strongly opposed to Turkey’s 36-year illegal occupation of Cyprus. Today, there are still about 36,000 Turkish troops occupying the north. They stand as a barrier against the reunification of Cyprus. I believe that the Turkish military occupation of Cyprus, a sovereign EU member state, must end, and Cyprus must be reunified.
In June 2011, I joined with several colleagues including Congressman Eliot Engel and Congressman Gus Bilirakis, in a letter to the President pressing him on the northern Cyprus issue. The letter called on the President to urge Turkey to understand that the occupation of northern Cyprus is against Turkey’s interests, violates international law, and does not promote the safety and security of Turkish Cypriots who would prosper in a united Cypriot republic. Further, the letter calls on Turkey to stop violating the rights of Christians in Turkish-occupied northern Cyprus.
The letter also lauds the Republic of Cyprus for its pro-American actions. Cyprus denied the use of its ports to the Gaza ‘flotilla’ and is preventing the use of its territory for actions that might destabilize the already tense Middle East. Cyprus also captured an arms-laden ship traveling from Syria to Hamas in Gaza in 2009, and it has stood with the United States against the Iranian nuclear program. As a member of the European Union, Cyprus shares our Western traditions of freedom and civil rights.
Recognizing Crete’s Contributions during World War II
I am again a cosponsor of a resolution recognizing and appreciating the historical significance and the heroic human endeavor and sacrifice of the people of Crete during World War II. I joined with Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney in cosponsoring H.Res.179, which observes the memory of the fallen heroes of the Battle of Crete. The resolution honors the men and women of Crete who, during World War II, fought an oppressive invader to preserve the ideals of freedom, democracy, and the pursuit of happiness. Further, the resolution commends the Pancretan Association of America for preserving and promoting the history of Crete and its people.
I look forward to further strengthening the relationship between the United States and Greece.