According to findings in a recently released Pew Research Center study, restrictions in religious beliefs worldwide increased for the second year in a row in 2016.
198 countries were included in the study and in 55 of them, there was an increase in religious restrictions.
“More than a quarter (28%) of countries had “high” or “very high” levels of government restrictions on religion in 2016, an increase from 25% the year before,” writes Pew Research.
In particular, the persecution of Christians, the religious group that is harassed the most, has increased significantly from 2015 to 2016.
Christians were harassed in 144 countries worldwide in 2016, versus the 128 countries in 2015.
“This represents the largest number of countries in which harassment took place since the start of these analyses in 2007, and all of the religious groups included in this report (with the exception of the unaffiliated) were affected. The most widely targeted groups in 144 and 142 countries respectively were Christians and Muslims, the world’s two largest religious groups,” writes PEW Research.
Last month, the State Department released its annual Report on Religious Freedom and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo took a stand against the spike in religious persecution.
He said that religious freedom is the “most fundamental of human rights” and that “the United States will not stand by as spectators.”
“Religious freedom was vital to America’s beginning,” said Pompeo. “Defending it is critical to our future.”
Evidently, a lot of countries don’t share this viewpoint.
“China had the highest levels of government restrictions on religion, while India had the highest levels of social hostilities involving religion. Both countries had the highest levels of restrictions in these respective categories, not only among the 25 most populous countries but also in the world at large,” writes PEW Research.
But on a regional level, the Middle Eastern and Northern African governments were the worst violators of religious freedom.
Author’s note: We can’t forget that religious freedom is not the norm across the world. Christianity may be the biggest religion in the world, but its believers are subjected to the most harassment.