Government restrictions on religion have increased in many places around the world — not only under authoritarian countries but also in democracies, most notably in Europe, according to a report released Monday.
Of the 198 countries surveyed, Pew Research Center found that 143 harassed Christians, while 140 did so to Muslims. The study showed that the number of populous countries, like China and Russia, that impose “high” or “very high” levels of restriction rose from 40 to 52 over the decade surveyed as part of Pew’s 10th annual Report on Global Restrictions on Religion. The report covered developments from 2007 to 2017.
Pew said the Middle East and North Africa, of the five major regions it studied, had the highest level of government restrictions on religion, followed by the Asia-Pacific region. However, it said the biggest increase during the period was in Europe, where the number of countries placing restrictions on religious dress — including burqas and face veils worn by some Muslim women — rose from 5 to 20 percent.
In addition to the burqa bans, countries like Spain have restricted public preaching and proselytizing by groups like the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Countries with the highest levels of restrictions were China, Iran, Russia, Egypt, and Indonesia, whereas the lowest levels were South Africa, Japan, the Phillippines, Brazil, and South Korea.