Religious freedom getting worse around the world; Christians remain most persecuted group: Pew

by Leah MarieAnn Klett, Christian Post Contributor |
A general view is seen as Egyptians gather by a Coptic church that was bombed on Sunday in Tanta, Egypt, April 9, 2017. | Photo: REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany

Government restrictions on religion have increased across the globe — and Christians and Muslims are persecuted in more countries than any other religious group, Pew Research Center has found.

Pew's report, titled "A Closer Look at How Religious Restrictions Have Risen Around the World," covered a 10-year span, from 2007 to 2017, and studied 198 countries.

The study, released Monday, reveals that Christians are the most-harassed religious group in the world, facing persecution in 143 countries. Muslims are not far behind, with reports of religious persecution in 140 countries in 2017. Jews, the third-most targeted group, were persecuted in 87 countries.

"Over the decade from 2007 to 2017, government restrictions on religion—laws, policies and actions by state officials that restrict religious beliefs and practices—increased markedly around the world," stated the researchers. "And social hostilities involving religion—including violence and harassment by private individuals, organizations or groups—also have risen since 2007."

Unsurprisingly, Christians and Muslims suffered the most harassment in the Middle East-North Africa region, while the Asia-Pacific region showed the second-highest levels of Christian persecution. The number of highly-populated countries, like China and Russia, that impose "high" or "very high" levels of restriction rose from 40 to 52 over the decade.

But government restrictions on religion have also increased in democracies: Overall, Europe saw the biggest increase in restrictions, with its score doubling over the decade of the study.

Pew found that a growing number of European countries have placed restrictions on religious dress, while countries like Spain have restricted public preaching and proselytizing by various religious groups.

While the Americas was the region with the fewest restrictions and hostilities, government limits on religious activities still saw a significant increase. Over the period of the study, the number of countries in the Americas with government restrictions on religious activities jumped from 16 to 28.

The U.S. score on hostilities related to religious norms, which had been 0.0 in 2007, increased to 4.0 by 2017.

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