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Global Religious Restrictions Rise in 2015

Religious restrictions and social hostility toward religion worldwide increased slightly in 2015, according to a new report from Pew Research Center.

Government restrictions of and social hostilities toward religious practices had increased each year from 2008 to 2012, before decreasing each year from 2012 to 2014.

This three-year trend was reversed in 2015, with 50 of 198 nations surveyed (up from 47 in 2014) having high levels of government restriction on religious practice and 53 nations (up from 45) having high levels of social hostility toward religion.

The report determined the level of government restriction “based on 20 indicators of ways that national and local governments restrict religion, including through coercion and force.”

This included government harassment, defined as “a government offense against a religious group or person due to their religious identity, including physical coercion or being singled out with the intent of making life or religious practice more difficult.”

The measure of social hostility was “based on 13 indicators of ways in which private individuals and social groups infringe on religious beliefs and practices, including religiously biased crimes, mob violence and efforts to stop particular religious groups from growing or operating.”

Widespread government harassment of religious groups was reported in 105 nations (up from 85 in 2014), with limited harassment in 52 nations (up from 44), and no harassment in 41 (down from 69).

Use of force by government entities against religious groups also increased in 2015, with 200 or more instances happening in 23 nations (up from 21 in 2014) and 83 nations having between one and 199 instances (up from 60).

More than half (53 percent) of European nations saw an increase in government harassment or use of force against religious groups (up from 33 percent in 2014), followed by Sub-Saharan Africa (48 percent), the Americas (37 percent), Middle East-North Africa (30) and Asia-Pacific (26).

“Some incidents of government harassment measured by this study – which are not always physical, but may include derogatory statements by public officials or discrimination against certain religious groups – were related to Europe’s incoming refugee population,” Pew explained.

In Europe, Jews (33 of 50 nations) and Muslims (32 of 50) were most likely to face social hostilities, followed by Christians (21 of 50).

Social hostility toward Muslims increased in every region, save for the Middle East-North Africa (which saw a 10 percent decrease).

The full report is available here.