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Harassment of religions on the rise across the globe, Pew study finds

First Published      Last Updated Apr 11 2017 08:50 pm


Persecution » Researchers note anti-Muslim sentiment rose in Europe during influx of 1.3 million Middle Eastern asylum seekers in 2015.

Government and social harassment of religious groups, on the decline for two years, is on the rise again with Muslim refugees finding increasing hostility in Europe, while Christians continue to be targeted in nations where Islam holds sway.

Those findings were reported Tuesday in a new study by the Washington, D.C.-based Pew Research Center.

Researchers found that, in 2015, the most recent year for which statistics were available, 50 nations, or nearly a quarter of the 198 countries studied, had "very high" or "high" levels of government restrictions — laws, policies or actions limiting religious beliefs and practices.




In 2014, those categories accounted for 47 countries, or 24 percent — at the time marking a second year of seeing a drop in government harassment of particular faiths.

When it comes to "social hostilities" toward religions, Pew researchers listed 53 nations, or 27 percent of those studied. That marked a 4 percentage point hike from 2014's 45 countries' tally.

"The global rise in social hostilities reflected a number of factors, including increases in mob violence related to religion, individuals being assaulted or displaced due to their faith, and incidents where violence was used to enforce religious norm," researchers summarized.

Regionally, the largest spike in government-related religious persecution, according to Pew, came in Europe: 53 percent of 45 European nations "experienced an increase in government harassment or use of force" in 2015, the study stated.

Researchers noted that the rise of mostly anti-Muslim actions and sentiment in Europe coincided with the arrival of 1.3 million Middle Eastern asylum seekers in 2015, nearly double the 700,000 who fled to Europe in 2014. More than half those refugees came from three war-torn, Muslim-majority nations — Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.

Pew researchers noted that religious- and refugee-related tensions also soared as terrorist attacks, usually associated with Islamic extremists such as ISIS, rocked Europe.

"France experienced several religion-related terror attacks in 2015, including the Jan. 7 shooting at the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and the Nov. 13 attacks claimed by [the Islamic State group] at the Bataclan concert hall and various other locations throughout Paris," the study noted.

"Altogether, European law enforcement officials reported record numbers of terrorist attacks either carried out or prevented by authorities in 2015, although not all of these events were directly related to religion," Pew's report added.

However, the study concluded that the Middle East and North Africa continue to have the highest levels of governmental restrictions on religion, primarily targeting Christians and Jews, though Muslims — depending on the faith landscapes of particular nations — also were targeted, along with members of non-Abrahamic faiths or tribal beliefs.

remims@sltrib.com

Twitter: @remims

 

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