The Pew report comes just weeks after the US State Department reviewed an annual assessment of religious freedom across the globe.“The state of religious freedom is dire,” said Sam Brownback, ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom, last month. “We have work to do. We must move religious freedom forward—we must defend it in every corner of the globe.”
Religious restrictions ramping up
Pew’s overall findings correlate with Brownback’s disappointment: Religious repression is pervasive and rising.“When combining measures of government restrictions and social hostilities, more than four-in-ten countries (42%) had high or very high levels of overall religious restrictions in 2016,” the researchers stated.
Because some of the most restrictive countries are also the world’s largest—think China and India—a majority of the global population (83%) lives in places with “high” or “very high” religious restrictions, mostly targeting religious minorities.
According to the analysis, of the 25 most populous countries in the world, Russia, India, Indonesia, Turkey, and Egypt are the biggest offenders for government restrictions and social hostilities against religion.
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. (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.)