Acton Institute Powerblog

7 Figures: Trends in global hostility toward religion

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A 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—26 percent had high or very high levels of government restrictions in 2017 (the most recent year for which data are available), down from 28 percent in 2016. (Note: North Korea is not included in the study.)

2. The share of countries with high or very high social hostilities involving religion, rose from 27 percent to 28 percent. The number of countries where people are experiencing the highest levels of social hostilities involving religion has risen from 39 to 56 since the course of the study in 2007.

3. Among the world’s 25 most populous countries, China has the highest level of government restrictions on religion, as of 2017, and has scored consistently high in this category since the baseline year of this study (2007).

4. Out of the world’s 25 largest countries, India experienced the highest levels of social hostilities in 2017, including sectarian or communal violence between the country’s Hindus and Muslims.

5. The number of European governments that interfered in worship or other religious practices also has been on the rise since 2007. There has been a bigger increase in government limits on religious activities—such as restrictions on religious dress, public or private worship or religious literature—in Europe than in any other region during the course of the study.

6. Government limits on religious activities also have increased markedly in the Americas, where the number of countries where governments interfered with worship rose from 16 in 2007 to 28 in 2017.

7. In 2017, Christians reportedly were harassed in 143 countries, declining slightly from 144 countries in 2016. Muslims were harassed in 140 countries in 2017, down from 142 countries in 2016. Jews were harassed in 87 countries – steady since 2016, and still the third-largest number of countries of any religious group despite Jews’ relatively small population size.

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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).