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Honoring 850th Anniversary of Martyr Thomas Becket, Trump Condemned Religious Persecution

Published: January 5, 2021
Martyr Thomas Becket
19th-century depiction of Becket, showing a sword piercing his head, at St. Peter's Church, Berkhamsted. (Image: Cnbrb via Wikimedia CC BY-SA 4.0)

President Donald Trump condemned religious persecution and reaffirmed his position on religious liberty with a proclamation honoring Saint Thomas Becket and calling for an “end to religious persecution worldwide.”

The proclamation was issued on Dec. 28th and then released one day later to coincide with the 850th anniversary of the martyrdom of Saint Thomas Becket, who was killed on Dec. 29, 1170. In the proclamation, Trump reminds everyone that the religious liberty enjoyed by Americans,  and that is written into the U.S. Constitution was “bought with the blood of martyrs.”

According to the proclamation, Archbishop Thomas Becket resisted the King of England’s attempts to “encroach upon the affairs of the house of God through the Constitutions of Clarendon.” As a result, he was forced to forfeit his property and flee from England. He was later struck down by the knights of King Henry II. It was then that he uttered his famous last words: “For the name of Jesus and the protection of the Church, I am ready to embrace death.” He was canonized by Pope Alexander III two years later.

“To honor Thomas Becket’s memory, the crimes against people of faith must stop, prisoners of conscience must be released, laws restricting freedom of religion and belief must be repealed, and the vulnerable, the defenseless, and the oppressed must be protected,” the proclamation reads. “As long as America stands, we will always defend religious liberty.”

The President went on to reference his 2019 address to the United Nations regarding religious freedom as well as his executive order signed on June 2, 2020, that prioritized “religious freedom as a core dimension of United States foreign policy.”

Trump's speech at UN General Assembly
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during the 74th Session of the United Nations General Assembly at UN Headquarters in New York, September 24, 2019. (Image: DON EMMERT / AFP via Getty Images)

Cardinal Joseph Zen of Hong Kong and Pastor Wang Yi of Chengdu, China were also mentioned as “brave” and “tireless witnesses to hope.” Both individuals have been victimized by the Chinese Communist Party for their defense of religious liberty in China. Pastor Yi was recently sentenced to nine years in prison. 

Cardinal Zen is well known for his criticism of the close ties between the Vatican and Communist China and, in particular, the China-Vatican accords. Cardinal Zen is quoted as saying: “And you can just imagine, in all these years, with all the persecution increasing in China, with all the cruelties, the brutalities of the police on our young people — no word from the Vatican, no word, not one word.”

The Dec. 29  observation is in line with the Trump administration’s continued efforts to call attention to the  persecution of religious groups by the Chinese Communist Party including Christians, Tibetans, Uyghurs, and the Falun Gong.

To sum up the proclamation, President Donald Trump invited “the people of the United States to observe the day in schools and churches and customary places of meeting with appropriate ceremonies in commemoration of the life and legacy of Thomas Becket.” He also states: “A society without religion cannot prosper. A nation without faith cannot endure — because justice, goodness, and peace cannot prevail without the grace of God.”

By Sunglin Wang

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