The latest research shows that hostility toward Christians is proliferating worldwide, as more and more nations are targeting believers in Christ than any other faith.
A ninth annual study conducted by the Pew Research Center revealed on Thursday that the global persecution of Christians at the hands of government agents and their imposed restrictions – as well assaults on those practicing religion by non-state persecutors – is higher than aggression against any other faith group.
“The most widely targeted groups in 144 and 142 countries respectively were Christians and Muslims – the world’s two largest religious groups,” the Pew Research Center announced. “Jews were harassed in 87 countries, reversing a decrease that occurred in 2015.”
It was further noted that persecution against each of these religious groups and other faiths has risen over the years.
“Christian groups were harassed in 144 nations (up from 128 in 2015), Muslims in 142 (up from 125) and Jews in 87 (up from 74), despite only representing 0.2 per cent of the global population,” World Watch Monitor pointed out from the Pew study. “The report found that ‘Christians are harassed in more countries by governments (114 countries) than by social groups (107 countries).’”
Global attack on faith
Pew compared the degree of religious persecution taking place in 198 nations in 2016 with levels from the previous year and found that governments are becoming less tolerant and more hostile toward those who practice their religious faith.
“New research reveals that religious hostility is on the rise globally, as government-sponsored restrictions and non-state actor assaults on religious practice have grown for the second year in a row,” The Christian Post (CP) explained from the poll. “Whether from government decrees hostile to religious faith or terror groups committing atrocities against religious minorities in their societies, antagonism toward people because of their religion is trending upward.”
Across the globe, peacefully practicing one’s faith as a Christian is becoming more and more scarce.
“More than a quarter (28 percent) of countries had ‘high’ or ‘very high’ levels of government restrictions on religion in 2016 – an increase from 25 percent the year before, [which is] the largest share of countries in these categories since 2013,” Pew divulged. “Countries in the ‘high’ or ‘very high’ categories scored at least a 4.5 on the Government Restrictions Index – a 10-point scale based on 20 indicators of government restrictions on religion, including limits on proselytizing and public preaching, or detentions and assaults of religious group members.”
Compared with statistics from a decade ago, it was also found that religious persecution is on the rise.
“The report found that 83 countries (42 percent) had high or very high levels of overall restrictions on religion – up from 80 (40 percent) in 2015, and 58 (29 percent) in 2007,” World Watch Monitor gleaned from the Pew study.
More and more nations are experiencing political groups rising against citizens for practicing their religious beliefs.
“A growing share of the incidents of government restrictions or social hostilities in 2016 involved political parties or social groups espousing nationalist positions, [as] about one-in-10 countries (11 percent) had government actors –including public officials or political parties – that used nationalist rhetoric against members of a particular religious group, compared with 6 percent the year before,” Pew Research Center’s Katayoun Kishi pointed out. “Similarly, 16 percent of countries in the report had organized social groups that used nationalist rhetoric against religious minorities in the country – an increase from 14 percent in 2015.”
Biggest gov’t violators of religious freedom
Some of the biggest suppressors of religious freedom were found to come at the hands of state officials governing over tens or hundreds of millions of citizens.
“Among the 25 most populous countries in the world, Egypt, Russia, India, Indonesia and Turkey had the highest overall levels of religious restrictions,” Kishi revealed from the study. “China (the most populated nation at 1.38 billion) had the highest levels of government restrictions on religion, while India (the second highest with a population of 1.32 billion) had the highest levels of social hostilities involving religion, [as] both countries had the highest levels of restrictions in these respective categories – not only among the 25 most populous countries, but also in the world at large.”
Populous countries along the European-Asian divide – such as the predominantly atheistic former Soviet Union and Turkey, with 99 percent of its population adhering to Islam – have been noted as hotbeds of religious Christian persecution due to government crackdowns.
“Russia, which implemented laws restricting Christian evangelism in 2016, and Turkey – where ‘anti-Christian conspiracy theories’ have led to ongoing imprisonment of an American pastor – are other major offenders,” Christianity Today (CT) reported. “Russia has also ranked among the world’s most egregious violators of religious freedom by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom in both of their last two annual reports.”
But when it comes to aggressive attacks on citizens for practicing their faith, China beats out the rest of the governments in the world.
“The rigidly atheist Communist regime banned the online purchase of Bibles earlier this year, following efforts to raze churches and remove Christian symbols from home years prior,” CT’s Griffin Paul Jackson noted from Pew’s research. “The Communist Party of China’s ‘control over religion is to be exerted not only through law, but also by reconciling religious doctrine with the party’s socialist values,’ wrote Brent Fulton in a 2016 analysis for CT.”
Laws prohibiting the freedom to practice one’s faith continue to rise for more than half of the nations of the world.
“Overall, religious restrictions around the world keep trending upward,” Jackson maintained. “In 2016, 53 percent of countries saw growing government restrictions on religion, [while] barely a quarter of countries experienced decreased restrictions, and one in five experienced no change.”