Nearly 1 in 4 Countries Used Force on Religious Groups Defying COVID-19 Measures

A new Pew Research report finds that governments and police in nearly a quarter of 198 countries and territories used coercion on religious groups who refused to comply with COVID-19 worship restrictions.

“In nearly a quarter of countries, governments used physical force, such as arrests and raids, to make religious groups comply with COVID-19 public health measures,” the Pew study published on Nov. 29 reads.

Authorities in at least 46 countries or territories used at least one type of force against religious groups, including “detentions” in at least 40 countries or territories, “physical assault” in 11, “property damage, confiscation or raids” in 10, “displacements” in four and “deaths” in three.

The report also found that one or more religious groups in 69 countries violated COVID-19 restrictions and health measures, including the United States and Canada, The Christian Post reports.

Meanwhile, private individuals and organizations in nine countries accused Christians of spreading COVID-19.

“In Egypt, conspiracy theories blamed the pandemic on the Coptic Orthodox Christian minority, which international Christian observers said exacerbated the discrimination the minority group already faced,” Pew reports.

The study also found that religious groups in India, Argentina, Italy and the United States faced social hostilities in light of the pandemic.

“In Turkey, an Armenian Orthodox church’s door was set on fire, and news reports said the man told police that he acted because ‘they [Armenian Christians] brought the coronavirus’ to Turkey,” the report further noted.

“Meanwhile, the number of countries with either ‘high’ or ‘very high’ levels of government restrictions remained the same, at 57 countries (29 percent) from 2019 to 2020, a peak number for the study. At the same time, the number of countries with ‘high’ or ‘very high’ levels of social hostilities fell from 43 countries (22 percent) in 2019 to 40 countries (20 percent) in 2020, which was below the peak of 65 countries (33 percent) recorded in 2012.”

A previous Pew Research report published in July found that most Americans were split on whether COVID-19 restrictions were necessary.

“About half of Americans (48 percent) say wearing masks around other people indoors has been extremely or very effective at limiting the spread of the coronavirus. A similar share (47 percent) says limiting activities and interactions with other people has been extremely or very effective,” the July study states.

“Still, for both measures, roughly as many Americans describe these actions as no more than somewhat effective at limiting the spread of the coronavirus.”

Reporting from Christian Headlines.