A new survey reveals that even before COVID-19 triggered massive attacks on religion – especially in the United States where worship centers were literally shut down on government orders – a large number of nations globally, 57, had “high” or “very high” government restrictions of faith.
Forty-three of those also held “high” or “very high” social hostilities to faith.
The report from the U.S. think tank Pew Research Center explained the 57 nations found themselves in that category for their “official laws, policies and actions that impinge on religious beliefs and practices.”
There were 198 countries in the survey, and Pew said from 2018 to 2019, the latest year for which statistics were available, the global median score on the Government Restrictions Index, a 10-point index based on 20 indicators, held steady at 2.9.
“This score has risen markedly since 2007, the first year of the study, when it was 1.8,” the survey said.
Most recently 29% of all countries have problematic government restrictions.
The Christian Institute in the United Kingdom explained, “Christians experienced high levels of harassment from governments around the world in 2019.”
It continued, “The report highlighted how the two main internet providers in the United Arab Emirates – controlled by the government – blocked websites with information on Christianity and sites displaying testimonies from Muslim converts to Christianity.”
“It later remarked how in Pakistan ‘a Christian suspect in a theft case was tortured while in police custody and died a few hours after being released. The victim’s brother reported that one of the police officers who arrested the man said, ‘I know how to deal with these infidels.'”
The Pew assessment said the 43 countries who had “high” or “very high” levels of social hostilities to faith featured “violence and harassment against religious groups by private individuals and groups.”
But the survey pointed out that all of the results are of a period “before the disruptions accompanying the coronavirus pandemic.” Just in the United States, multiple local, state and federal orders targeted faith organizations when they gave a pass to other, similar, organizations, regarding meetings, assemblies and more.
One bright point was that the survey said there was another drop in the number of nations featuring “religion-related terrorism (including deaths, physical abuse, displacement, detentions, destruction of property, and fundraising and recruitment by terrorist groups).”
“In 2019, 49 countries experienced at least one of these types of religion-related terrorism, a record low for the study. That was down from 64 countries in 2018, and from a record high of 82 countries in 2014. The decline from 2018 occurred in four of the five regions analyzed: the Americas, the Asia-Pacific region, Europe and the Middle East-North Africa region,” the report said.
“Only in sub-Saharan Africa did the number of countries with religion-related terrorism remain stable in 2019. There also were fewer countries where religion-related terrorism led to deaths or injuries. In 2019, 47 countries had at least one casualty due to religion-related terrorism, down from 57 countries in 2018.”
The report sets up expectations for next year’s evaluation, since it notes that “more countries had at least one reported incident of government harassment or interference in worship in 2019 than in any other year since the study began in 2007.”
And its results are pre-COVID-19.
“In total, 180 countries – 91% of all countries in the study – had at least one instance, at some level, of government harassment against religious groups, compared with 175 countries in 2018. In this study, harassment against religious groups can range from verbal intimidation to physical violence motivated at least in part by the target’s religious identity. Governments in more than 80% of the countries in each of the study’s five regions harassed religious groups in some way, including all 20 countries in the Middle East-North Africa region and 44 of 45 in Europe (98% of countries in the region). In sub-Saharan Africa, 90% of the region’s 48 countries had such incidents, followed by 89% of the 35 countries in the Americas and 84% of countries in the Asia-Pacific region,” the 96-page report explained.
One of the more recent, and more blatant, exhibitions of “hostility” to faith came from Colorado, which was publicly scolded by the U.S. Supreme Court for its antagonism to Christianity. It came in the case of a baker, Jack Phillips, who declined to promote same-sex duos with his wedding cake artistry and was put in a bull’s-eye by the state.
Colorado officials ordered him to undergo a reindoctrination program because of his faith, and take his employees with him. And the same time, they refused to take any action whatsoever against homosexual bakers who refused to create products with a biblical message condemning homosexuality.
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