Christians are persecuted in more countries than any other religious group in the world, followed closely by Muslims, according to a new Pew Research Center study that also found government restrictions of religions are at an all-time high.
The lengthy Pew report was released this week and found that in 2018 – the most recent year studied by Pew – government limits on religion continued to climb, contributing to a “substantial rise in government restrictions on religion” compared to 2007, the first year Pew conducted the study. Pew defines restrictions as “laws, policies and actions by officials that impinge on religious beliefs and practices.”
The worldwide Government Restrictions Index score in 2018 was 2.9, compared to 1.8 in 2007 (The score involves a 10-point scale based on 20 indicators).
China is the world’s most restrictive country toward religion with the highest score (9.3) of all 198 countries and territories studied. Iran (8.5) is second, followed by Malaysia and the Maldives (8.2 each) and Tajikistan and Turkmenistan (7.9 each).
Most of the world’s religious persecution takes place in the Asia-Pacific region, as well as in the Middle East and North Africa, Pew said.
Christians and Muslims in 2018 received the highest level of persecution, which Pew calls “harassment.” Harassment, Pew said, “can include a wide range of actions – from verbal abuse to physical violence and killings – motivated at least in part by the target’s religious identity.”
Christians were persecuted in 145 countries in 2018 – a record – while Muslims were persecuted in 139 countries. Jews experienced persecution in a total of 88 countries.
“As in previous years, Christians and Muslims experienced harassment in more countries than any other religious groups in 2018. This pattern has remained consistent since the study began in 2007,” Pew said in its analysis.
Pew listed examples of persecution.
“In Burundi, a Christian man died after he was imprisoned and allegedly beaten by police for refusing – on the basis of his religious conscience – to register to vote,” Pew said. “... in Lebanon, three brothers reportedly killed a Sunni man after accusing him of making blasphemous remarks in a market.”
Photo courtesy: The New York Public Library/Unsplash
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.