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7 Figures: Trends in global restrictions on religion

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7figuresA new study by The Pew Charitable Trusts and the John Templeton Foundation reports on the extent to which governments and societies around the world impinge on religious beliefs and practices.

Here are seven figures you should know from the study about trends in religious hostilities:

1. Of the 198 countries included in the study—covering 99.5 percent of the world’s population—28 percent had high or very high levels of government restrictions in 2016 (the most recent year for which data are available), up from 25 percent in 2015. (Note: North Korea is not included in the study.)

2. The share of countries with high or very high social hostilities involving religion, remained stable at 27 percent.The number of countries with high or very high levels of social hostilities declined in 2013 and has remained at about the same level since, but it is higher than it was in 2007, the baseline year of this study.

3. More than three-quarters of the world’s 7.2 billion people (83 percent) were living in countries with high or very high restrictions or hostilities in 2014, down slightly from 83 percent in 2015.

4. In 2016, four countries experienced large increases in social hostility involving religion, while just two—Niger and the Republic of the Congo—saw large decreases. In Niger, cooperation between Christian and Muslim communities reportedly improved after violent protests in 2015. And in the Republic of the Congo, Muslim leaders said they had not received reports of harassment against the Muslim community, as opposed to in 2015, when authorities arrested several people attempting to vandalize a mosque.

5. In 2016, Christians were harassed in 144 countries, up from 128 countries the year before.

6. Since 2007, Jews have consistently been harassed by social groups or individuals in more countries than they have been harassed by governments (66 vs. 56 in 2016). Christians, on the other hand, are harassed in more countries by governments (114 countries) than by social groups (107 countries).

7. Christians were most likely to face harassment in the Asia-Pacific region, whether from government forces or social groups. Three-in-ten countries where Christians were harassed by governments were in the Asia-Pacific region, while a similar share (27 percent) of countries where they were harassed by social groups were also located in the region.

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Joe Carter Joe Carter is a Senior Editor at the Acton Institute. Joe also serves as an editor at the The Gospel Coalition, a communications specialist for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and as an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. He is the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible and co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator (Crossway).

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