Pew Research Center just published its 10th annual report analyzing restrictions on religion (by both governments and individuals or groups in society) around the world. This year’s report differs from past reports because it focuses on changes that have occurred over the course of a decade, covering 2007 to 2017, rather than emphasizing year-to-year variations. Another new approach this year involves splitting each of two broad types of religious restrictions – government restrictions and social hostilities – into four subcategories. This provides a clearer picture of the specific types of religious restrictions that people face – and how they are changing over time.
Here are key findings from the report:
1Government restrictions on religion have increased globally between 2007 and 2017 in all four categories studied: favoritism of religious groups, general laws and policies restricting religious freedom, harassment of religious groups, and limits on religious activity. The most common types of restrictions globally have consistently been the first two. Governments often enshrine favoritism toward a certain religious group or groups in their constitutions or basic laws. And general laws and policies restricting religious freedom can cover a wide range of restrictions, including a requirement that religious groups register in order to operate. But one of the more striking increases involved the category of government limits on religious activities, which can include limits or requirements on religious dress. The global mean score in this category rose by about 44% between 2007 and 2017.
2Social hostilities involving religion have increased in a few categories, but levels of interreligious tension and violence, also known as sectarian or communal violence, have declined globally. In 2007, 91 countries experienced some level of violence due to tensions between religious groups, such as conflict between Hindus and Muslims in India, but by 2017 that number dropped to 57 countries. However, harassment by individuals and social groups, religious violence by organized groups, and hostilities related to religious norms (for example, harassment of women for violating dress codes) have all been on the rise.