Middle East home to highest rate of religious persecution
12th report on "Global restrictions on religions" by the Pew Research Center reveals attacks by terrorist groups are decreasing, but restrictions and constraints imposed by the State or government agencies are growing. Christians remain the most persecuted religious group in the world, with at least 153 nations experiencing attacks of various kinds.
Beirut (AsiaNews) - On a global scale, government persecution of religions has reached a record level in the last year, while confessional terrorism has continued to decline, reaching a new historic low. This is what emerges from the 12th annual report on "Global restrictions on religions" drawn up by experts from the Pew Research Center, which examines 198 nations and territories; the most critical areas are in the Middle East where persecution is greatest.
The report is based on data collected in 2019, the last available before the Covid-19 pandemic. It measures social hostility and legal restrictions on worship. For example, a nation may have a low level of faith-related social violence but a judiciary that imposes heavy restrictions on the practice, and vice versa.
Released in recent days, the document records a decline in terrorist attacks, denominational homicides, and mob and group violence that strikes for reasons of faith. Among the nations with a high level of social hostility are India, Iraq, Israel, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Syria. The only two "European" nations considered in the very high risk range are Turkey and Russia, the latter also the only country with a Christian majority.
Christians remain the most persecuted religious group in the world: there are at least 153 nations or territories in which they are victims of discrimination, abuse or targeted attacks by entities linked to the State or other religious groups. As for Muslims, there are 147 countries in which they are the object of harassment or attacks.
In 2007, when Pew's first annual study was published, there were 79 nations or territories in the world where Christians were subjected to harassment or attacks by government agencies; in less than 15 years, this has nearly doubled. Among the top 25 countries in the world in terms of population, in the Middle East and North Africa, Egypt has the worst record for violence and persecution at the hands of the state, pro-government agencies or religious groups. For government-sponsored persecution, Iran and Turkey also fall into the "very high" category.
On a scale of one to 10, the global average for government restrictions on worship is 2.9. However, the figure for the Middle East is well above the other regions with a score of 6. The second most restrictive is Asia-Pacific, with a 4.1. When analyzing violence related to society and ethnic-confessional groups in the area, the figure is 1.7 globally. Again, the Middle East has a significantly higher figure with 3.8. Europe is close behind with 2.1. Widening the scope of the survey to the internet and online violations, there are at least 28 countries with restriction policies, accounting for 14% of the total. Of these, 10 are from the Middle East.
Globally, 22% of nations fall into the "high" or "very high" category for socially motivated persecution or persecution of extremist religious groups. Finally, there is a record high for governmental abuse and violence, with 29% of nations at a "high" or "very high" level.