UNITED STATES COMMITMENT TO PRESERVATION OF RELIGIOUS AND CULTURAL SITES -- (House of Representatives - September 23, 2008)
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Mr. FERGUSON. Mr. Speaker, I first want to thank my friend and colleague, Mr. Crowley, for working with me on this resolution, and I appreciate his leadership on the floor today. I want to thank Chairman Berman of the committee and Ranking Member Ros-Lehtinen for their strong support in helping us bring this resolution to the floor today.
This Congress is committed to protecting and preserving the cultural heritage of all national, religious, and ethnic groups, including sacred sites such as the cemeteries here in the United States and around the world.
There are over 20 bilateral agreements between the United States and foreign governments assuring the protection and preservation of cultural property. However, in recent months, the bilateral agreement between the United States and Lithuania has, unfortunately, been broken.
We're disappointed that there has been a lack of meaningful action by the Lithuanian Government in preserving the Jewish cemetery in the Snipiskes area of Vilnius, Lithuania. Instead of preserving this site, the government in Lithuania has allowed an apartment complex to be built over the assumed boundaries of this particular cemetery.
Now, cemeteries are sacred sites and are established to remain undisturbed in perpetuity, and the sanctity of a cemetery is determined by the bodies and the families of those bodies that are buried in them. This resolution expresses this body's deep commitment to preserving these sacred cultural sites. Those buried there and their families deserve nothing less than that.
As I close, I just want to again thank the chairman of the committee, my friend from New York (Mr. Crowley) and the ranking member of the committee, Ms. Ros-Lehtinen. I also want to thank my legislative director, Mandy Tharpe, who worked very hard on drafting this legislation, and all the members of the staff for helping us with this important resolution.
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