CHRISTIANS remain the most persecuted religious group in the world, new figures from the Pew Research Centre show.
The Centre’s report on religious harassment in 2016 found that Christians were harassed in 144 countries, up from 128 the year before, while Muslims were harassed in 142 countries, up from 125 in 2015.
Published last week, the report says: “Christians and Muslims have typically been harassed in the largest number of countries around the world.
“These two groups are the largest religious groups in the world, and have substantial populations in more countries than other smaller and less geographically dispersed religious groups. . .
“There was also a jump in the number of countries where Jews were harassed in 2016, following a small decrease in 2015.”
It explains: “Harassment of members of religious groups takes many forms, including physical assaults, arrests and detentions, desecration of holy sites, and discrimination against religious groups in employment, education and housing.”
The Centre reported that the number of countries with “high” or “very high” levels of government restrictions on religion also rose, from 25 per cent of countries in 2015 to 28 per cent in 2016: 55 of the 198 countries examined by the research.
The report says: “This is the largest percentage of countries to have high or very high levels of government restrictions since 2013, and falls just below the 10-year peak of 29% in 2012. . .
“In many countries, restrictions on religion resulted from actions taken by government officials, social groups or individuals espousing nationalist positions.”
China had the highest score on the “Government Restrictions Index”, while India had the highest score on the “Social Hostilities Index”.
A report earlier this year forecast that the Chinese government would crack down on Christians in the country, after new legislation (News, 12 January).