Number of countries with ‘very high’ government restrictions on religion at highest level since 2007

Source: Pew Research Center

Countries with the most extensive government restrictions on religion

Countries with very high government restrictions on religionMost countries around the world have some form of restrictions on religion – whether it is through laws that limit actions like public preaching or conversion, or actions that can include detaining, displacing or assaulting members of religious groups.

A subset of countries, however, has particularly high levels of government restrictions on religion. Twenty-five of the 198 countries in this study had “very high” levels of government restrictions on religion in 2016, up from 23 countries in 2015 and just 16 in 2014.26 This marks the biggest number of countries to fall in this top category since Pew Research Center began analyzing restrictions on religion in 2007.

Three countries and territories – Laos, Burma (Myanmar) and Western Sahara – moved into the “very high” category in 2016, while one country – Vietnam – dropped from the “very high” to the “high” restrictions category. Burma’s score was affected by ongoing government actions taken against the Rohingya Muslim minority, described by the United Nations as “crimes against humanity.”27 In response to deadly attacks in October and November, Burmese military and police forces conducted “security operations” that allegedly resulted in extrajudicial killings, rapes, beatings and mass arrests in northern Rakhine State. The operations resulted in the displacement of approximately 93,000 civilians, according to the United Nations.

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