Government Restrictions On Religious Groups, Churches At All-Time High Before And During Pandemic

Government restrictions on religious groups and churches showed to be on an all-time high before and during the pandemic.

The Christian Headlines said government restrictions on religion actually remained at high levels even before the pandemic began based on a report released last Thursday from the Pew Research Center. The said report involves a study of 198 countries whose governments imposed restrictions on religion, as well as, social hostilities.

According to the Pew Research report, 29% or 57 countries have a “high” or “very high” level of government restrictions on religion as of 2019 that matched to that of 2012 data and increased by one country in 2018. These countries belong to the “Asia-Pacific region” that registered 50 countries with high government restrictions and in the Middle East-North Africa region that registered 19 of 20 countries for 2019.

A decline was experienced in terms of “high” or “very high” social hostilities from private individuals and groups on religion in 2019, involving 43 countries or 22%. This is down from the 53 countries or 27% recorded a year earlier and from the 65 or 33% recorded in 2012.

An interesting part of the report involves the 35 countries that registered “high” levels of social hostilities on religion in 2009 is now with the least of it in record.

In terms of religion related to terrorism, a record low of 49 countries was reported in 2019. The said countries showed “at least one” type of terrorist act that involved “deaths, physical abuse, displacement, detentions, destruction of property, and fundraising and recruitment by terrorist groups.” This data was significantly lower than the 64 countries recorded in 2018 and from the 82 countries recorded in 2019.

Pew Research Lead Researcher Samirah Majumdar explained in an interview with Christianity Today that the decline in social hostilities in 2019 was “partly due to a decrease in reports of terrorism, mob violence, and hostilities against proselytizing.”

All in all, there are a total of 75 countries or 38% who reported a “high” or “very high” level of overall government restrictions and social hostilities on religion in 2019. This data actually reflects a decline from 80 countries or 40% the previous year. Accordingly, the most recent data available on such incidents is 2019 as per Pew Research.

Last November, Pew Research released its report on government restrictions as of 2017 data. The said report is part of its annual study for the Pew-Templeton Global Religious Futures project that aims to document harassment and violence experienced on the basis of religion. The said study actually revealed that there is an all time high on government restrictions on religion mostly in China and Russia and 50 other countries.

The 2017 Pew Research report similarly showed higher incidents of government restrictions in Asia and Pacific countries than in the rest of the world. Christians and Muslims are said to be the most prone to such government restrictions involving 143 and 140 countries, respectively.

However, unlike the 2019 report, the Pew Research report released last November showed a spike in government restrictions as compared to 2007 data involving 56 countries versus the 39 regions a decade earlier.