Trump Calls for End to Religious Persecution on 850th Anniversary of Thomas Becket’s Death

December 29, 2020 Updated: December 29, 2020

President Donald Trump marked the 850th-anniversary of the death of English archbishop Thomas Becket in 1170 while calling for an end to religious persecution worldwide.

“On this day, we celebrate and revere Thomas Becket’s courageous stand for religious liberty and we reaffirm our call to end religious persecution worldwide,” Trump said in a proclamation on Monday.

“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of faith must stop, prisoners of conscience must be released, laws restricting freedom of religion and belief must be repealed, and the vulnerable, the defenseless, and the oppressed must be protected,” the president continued. “As long as America stands, we will always defend religious liberty.”

Becket was the archbishop of Canterbury—a cathedral city in southeast England—from 1162 until 1170.

He was forced to forfeit all his property and flee his own country before he was killed by King Henry II’s knights in Canterbury Cathedral after repeatedly refusing to render the church subservient to the state.

Epoch Times Photo
Engraving depicting the death of Thomas Becket (circa 1118–1170), Archbishop of Canterbury, as he was murdered by followers of King Henry II in Canterbury Cathedral in Canterbury, Kent, England, Great Britain, on Dec. 29, 1170. (Kean Collection/Getty Images)

“Thomas Becket’s death serves as a powerful and timeless reminder to every American that our freedom from religious persecution is not a mere luxury or accident of history, but rather an essential element of our liberty,” Trump said.

In September 2019, Trump became the first leader to initiate a high-level meeting at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York to call on countries to end religious persecution around the world.

He urged governments to stop persecuting their citizens, release prisoners of conscience, eliminate laws that restrict religion, and protect oppressed people.

“A society without religion cannot prosper. A nation without faith cannot endure—because justice, goodness, and peace cannot prevail without the grace of God,” Trump said at the end of the proclamation.

The president also signed an executive order earlier this year that prioritizes religious freedom in U.S. foreign policy and assistance programs. The order also allocates at least $50 million per year for programs that promote international religious freedom.

Gary Bauer, the commissioner at the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom told The Epoch Times that China has been a growing concern for Washington.

Epoch Times Photo
Hon. Commissioner Gary Bauer, U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, in Washington on May 9, 2019. (Samira Bouaou/The Epoch Times)

The Chinese communist regime’s long list of religious violations and hostility toward religion have made it the world’s “worst abuser of religious liberty,” Bauer said.

The Chinese regime has been consistently designated by the U.S. State Department as a “country of particular concern” for its poor record on religious freedom since 1999.

Religious groups of all kinds are under attack in China, including Christians, Tibetan Buddhists, Muslims, and adherents of the spiritual discipline Falun Gong. They are subjected to systematic arrest, unlawful imprisonment, torture, and brainwashing. According to researchers, the government is using various methods of persecution, which include forced organ harvesting from prisoners of conscience.

Emel Akan contributed to this report.