Religious Persecution is Worsening Worldwide

Sri Lankan churches closed in April 2019 following Easter Sunday attacks that killed more than 250 people at three churches and three luxury hotels.
Sri Lankan churches closed in April 2019 following Easter Sunday attacks that killed more than 250 people at three churches and three luxury hotels.

Dictators are the worst persecutors of believers.

This perhaps uncontroversial finding was verified for the first time in the Pew Research Center’s 11th annual study surveying restrictions on freedom of religion in 198 nations.

The median level of government violations reached an all-time high in 2018, as 56 nations [28%] suffer “high” or “very high” levels of official restriction.

The number of nations suffering “high” or “very high” levels of social hostilities toward religion dropped slightly to 53 [27%]. However, the prior year the median level recorded an all-time high.

Considered together, 40 percent of the world faces significant hindrance in worshiping God freely.

And the trend continues to be negative.

Since 2007, when Pew began its groundbreaking survey, the median level of government restrictions has risen 65 percent. The level for social hostilities has doubled.

Over the past two weeks, Christians prayed for their persecuted brethren around the world.

Launched in 1996 by the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA), the International Day of Prayer (IDOP) for the Persecuted Church is held annually the first two Sundays in November.

This year’s campaign was called: One With Them.

“Them” is the 260 million Christians worldwide who face persecution, according to Godfrey Yogarajah, executive director of the WEA Religious Liberty Commission. Eight Christians are martyred for their faith each day.

But Christians are not the only ones who suffer.

Ahmed Shaheed, UN special rapporteur for freedom of religion and belief, said that of the 178 nations which require religious groups to register, almost 40 percent are applied with bias.

“The failure to eliminate discrimination, combined with political marginalization and nationalist attacks on identities,” he said, “can propel trajectories of violence and even atrocity crimes.”

In addition, 21 nations criminalize apostasy.

“Faith has to be voluntary,” Shaheed told CT, in an interview conducted in April. “There is no value in faith if it is not free.”

The worst offenders are familiar.

Among the world’s 25 largest nations, India, Egypt, Indonesia, Pakistan, and Russia had the highest overall levels of both government restrictions and social hostilities.

But while not all of these are autocracies, Pew noted that authoritarian governments lead the way.

Using terminology from the Democracy Index, of the 26 nations ranked as “very high” in government restrictions, 65 percent are authoritarian. And of the 30 nations ranked as “high,” 40 percent are authoritarian, while 37 percent are a hybrid regime with some democratic tendencies.

Denmark was the only full democracy, after banning the Muslim face veil.

Social hostilities are not as straightforward.

Of the 10 nations ranked as “very high,” four are authoritarian, three are hybrid, and three are flawed democracies—India, Israel, and Sri Lanka. And in the 43 nations ranked as “high,” 21 percent are authoritarian, 14 percent are hybrid, 30 percent are flawed, and 12 percent are full democracies.

These included Germany, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.

Some authoritarian states with high restrictions on religion were successful in tampering social hostilities, such as Eritrea and Kazakhstan. Others, like China, Iran, and Uzbekistan, still recorded moderate social hostilities.

“High levels of government control over religion may lead to fewer hostilities by nongovernment actors,” stated Pew researchers.

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Source: Christianity Today