Trends in Global Restrictions on Religion

restrictionsWorldwide, both government restrictions on religion and social hostilities involving religion decreased modestly from 2013 to 2014 despite a rise in religion-related terrorism, according to Pew Research Center’s latest annual study on global restrictions on religion.


Of the 198 countries included in the study, 24% had high or very high levels of government restrictions in 2014 (the most recent year for which data are available), down from 28% in 2013.2 There was a similar decline in the share of countries with high or very high social hostilities involving religion, which dropped from 27% to 23%. This is the second year in a row the number of countries with this level of religious restrictions has declined, after three years of steady increases.3

Although only about a quarter of the countries included in the study fall into the most religiously restrictive categories, some of the most restrictive countries (such as Indonesia and Pakistan) are very populous. As a result, roughly three-quarters of the world’s 7.2 billion people (74%) were living in countries with high or very high restrictions or hostilities in 2014, down slightly from 77% in 2013.

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The modest declines in countries with high restrictions or hostilities took place despite a marked increase in the number of countries that experienced religion-related terrorist activities, including acts carried out by such groups as Boko Haram, al-Qaida and the Islamic State (also known as ISIS or ISIL). Of the nearly 200 countries and territories included in the study, 82 (41%) had religion-related terrorist activities in 2014, up from 73 (37%) in 2013. In some countries, the terrorist activities were limited to recruitment or fundraising. But in 60 countries, religion-related terrorism led to injuries or deaths, including at least 50 casualties in each of 28 countries. Casualties from religion-related terrorist activities have been rising in recent years.

You can read more about the overall decline in religious restrictions and hostilities despite continued rise in religion-related terrorism here

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