Trends in Global Restrictions on Religion

The latest Pew Research Center report, based on data for 2014, concludes that there has been an overall decline in religious restrictions and hostilities despite a continued rise in religion-related terrorism.

Of the 198 countries included in the study, 24% had high or very high levels of government restrictions in 2014 (the most recent year for which data are available), down from 28% in 2013.

There was a similar decline in the share of countries with high or very high social hostilities involving religion, which dropped from 27% to 23%. This is the second year in a row the number of countries with this level of religious restrictions has declined, after three years of steady increases.

  • There was a marked increase in the number of countries that experienced religion-related terrorist activities
  • There was a decline in the number of countries where threats of violence were used to enforce religious norms and a global decline in the incidence of mob violence related to religion
  • There was an overall decline in government restrictions on religion
  • The Middle East and North Africa region continued to have the highest median level of government restrictions on religion
  • China had the highest level of government restrictions in 2014
  • Pakistan had the highest level of social hostilities involving religion
  • Christians and Muslims faced harassment in the largest number of countries
  • Harassment of Jews continued to increase in 2014.

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Most countries in the world have some form of government restrictions on religion, but each year a few countries stand out as having particularly extensive restrictions.

Countries with very high social hostilities involving religionCountries with very high government restrictions on religion

















Harassment or intimidation of specific religious groups occurred in 159 countries in 2014, down slightly from 2013 (164).

Christians and Muslims were harassed in the most countries in 2014. The total number of countries where Christians were harassed increased, while it stayed about the same for Muslims. Christians were harassed in 108 countries in 2014, up from 102 in 2013. Muslims were harassed in 100, compared with 99 in 2013.

The number of countries in which Jews were harassed continued to increase. Jews, who make up 0.2% of the world’s population, were harassed in 81 countries (up from 77 in 2013 and 71 in 2012).

There was an increase in the number of countries in which Hindus were harassed, from nine in 2013 to 14 in 2014. The number of countries in which Buddhists were harassed stayed roughly the same (12 in 2013, compared with 10 in 2014).


Number of countries where religious groups were harassed, by type of harassment

Among the world’s 25 most populous countries (which contain 74% of the world’s population), Egypt, Indonesia, Pakistan, Russia and Turkey stand out as having the highest levels restrictions on religion (as of the end of 2014) when both government restrictions and social hostilities are taken into account.