The eighth annual study on global restrictions on religion, published by Pew Research Center April 10 reports an increase in countries with “high” or “very high” levels of government laws, policies and actions that restrict religious beliefs and practices. In 2015, the most recent year for which data is available, countries with high or very high levels of social hostilities also increased. The study ranks 198 countries and territories by their levels of government restrictions on religion and social hostilities involving religion.
Among the factors noted in the report:
- 105 countries (53%) experienced widespread government harassment of religious groups, up from 85 (43%) and 96 (48%) in 2013.
- Limited harassment—isolated cases or cases that affected a small number of groups—took place in 52 countries (26%) in 2015, up from 44 (2%) in 2014.
- In Europe, in 17 countries, up from 9 in 2014, occurred incidents of mob violence related to religion (individuals assaulted or displaced because of their faith) and incidents of violence used to enforce religious norms.
- Sub-Saharan Africa showed a greater use of violence to enforce religious norms—25 countries in 2015 up from 9 in 2014.
- Government use of force against religious groups increased, with 23 countries (12%) experiencing more than 200 cases of government force in 2015, up from 21 (11%) in 2014.
- An even greater increase came in the number of countries with at least one but not more than 200 incidents of government use of force against religious groups: 83 nations (42%) vs. 60 countries (30%) in 2014.
The study is part of the Pew-Templeton Global Religious Futures project that analyzes religious change and its impact on societies around the world. The project is jointly funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts and the John Templeton Foundation.
The study is available on the Pew Research Center site.