There has been a dramatic increase in religious persecution worldwide in the past six years. 5.3 billion people (76% of the world’s population) live in countries with a high or very high level of restrictions on religion. An official US government report states “religious freedom abuses occur daily around the world for people of all faiths and none.”
A 2014 study by the Pew Research Center examined the years 2007-12 and concluded that religious hostilities had increased in every major region of the world except the Americas. The sharpest increase was in the Middle East and North Africa, impacted by the Arab Spring.
- 29% of all countries had a high or very high level of government restrictions
- 39% of countries had seen violence, or the threat of violence, used to compel people to adhere to religious norms
- 32% of countries experienced harassment of women over religious dress
- 25% of countries witnessed mob violence related to religion
- 20% of countries experienced religion-related terrorist violence.
The study also reported an increase in the level of harassment or intimidation of particular religious groups. Two of the seven major religious groups monitored by the study – Muslims and Jews – experienced six-year highs in the number of countries in which they were harassed by national, provincial or local governments, or by individuals or groups in society. As in previous years, Christians and Muslims – who together make up more than half of the global population – were harassed in the largest number of countries (110 and 109, respectively).