The latest report coming from the Pew Research Center provides a good illustration of how government restrictions have affected religion in various places around the world since 2017. The numbers were noticeably higher, particularly in Asia and Pacific countries.
The report was published recently as part of the Pew-Templeton Global Religious Futures project. The report, covering developments since 2017, aims to document the scope of religion-based harassment and violence. Of the world’s two largest religions, Christians were harassed in 143 countries and Muslims in 140.
52 governments were found to have imposed high levels of restrictions on religion, including China and Russia. This is a notable increase from the 40 agencies that were reported in 2007, the Associated Press reported. Also, 56 countries in 2017 were dealing with social hostilities involving religion, an increase from the 39 regions reported in 2007.
“In 2018, the global median level of government restrictions on religion — that is, laws, policies and actions by officials that impinge on religious beliefs and practices — continued to climb, reaching an all-time high since Pew Research Center began tracking these trends in 2007,” authors Pew Research Associate Samirah Majumdar and Pew Director of Religion Research Virginia Villa stated.
Among the countries that had the highest level of government restrictions on religion were the Middle East and North Africa. The Asia-Pacific region followed the two areas.
“Out of the five regions examined in the study, the Middle East and North Africa continued to have the highest median level of government restrictions in 2018 (6.2 out of 10),” the study said.
Surprisingly, the biggest increase from the period 2007 to 2017 came from Europe. A reason for this was the restrictions placed on religious dressings that included burqas and face veils worn by Muslim women. Circumcision of boys is also another issue over in Europe.
Austria enforced a ban on full-face veils in public spaces while Germany banned face veils for anyone driving a motor vehicle or working in the civil service. Over in Switzerland, voters in two regions have approved bans on face veils and voters nationwide backed a ban on the construction of new minarets.
In Spain, some municipal governors introduced bans on burqas and face-covering veils. They have also restricted public preaching and proselytizing on groups like Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
But things are a bit extreme over in the Asia-Pacific region. A reason behind this is because the governments used force against religious groups, including property damage, detention, displacement, abuse and killings.
Some countries were pointed out in the report as well. Myanmar has been singled out in the report for its mass displacement of Rohingya Muslims and other minorities. Uzbekistan was similarly called out for having roughly 1,500 Muslim religious prisoners in prison on charges of religious extremism or for membership in banned groups.
China, India and Thailand also registered all-time highs on the Government Restrictions Index (GRI) in 2018 through various cases pointed out. Africa was the only other region to experience an increase in its median level of government restrictions in 2018 (2.6 to 2.7), reaching a new high following a steady rise in recent years.