After 10 years of reporting on religious restrictions, Pew Research has a unique perspective on how persecution is rising. Not only are governments and religious groups persecuting religious groups. Even persecution by individuals is on the rise.
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. According to the in-depth report, social hostilities involving religion – including violence and harassment by private individuals, organizations or groups – have also risen since 2007, the year Pew Research Center began tracking the issue.
Indeed, the latest data shows that 52 governments – including some in very populous countries, like China, Indonesia, and Russia – impose either “high” or “very high” levels of restrictions on religion, up from 40 in 2007. And the number of countries where people are experiencing the highest levels of social hostilities involving religion has risen from 39 to 56 over the course of the study.
Government restrictions have risen in several different ways. Laws and policies restricting religious freedom (such as requiring that religious groups register in order to operate) and government favoritism of religious groups (through funding for religious education, property and clergy, for example) have consistently been the most prevalent types of restrictions globally and in each of the five regions tracked in the study: Americas, Asia-Pacific, Europe, Middle East-North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa. Both types of restrictions have been rising; the global average score in each of these categories increased more than 20 percent between 2007 and 2017.
Levels of government limits on religious activities and government harassment of religious groups are somewhat lower now, but they have been rising over the past decade – and in some cases, even more steeply. For instance, the average score for government limits on religious activities in Europe (including efforts to restrict proselytizing and male circumcision) has doubled since 2007, and the average score for government harassment in the Middle East-North Africa region (such as criminal prosecutions of Ahmadis or other minority sects of Islam) has increased by 72 percent.