June 23, 2016

Trends in Global Restrictions on Religion

2. Harassment of specific religious groups: Christians and Muslims were harassed in the most countries in 2014

Harassment or intimidation of specific religious groups occurred in 159 countries in 2014, down somewhat from 2013 (164). The world’s two largest religious groups, Christians and Muslims, continued to be harassed in the most countries, and there was a notable increase in the number of countries in which Jews and Hindus were harassed.

Harassment of Jews reaches eight-year high

Harassment of specific religious groups takes many forms, including physical assaults; arrest and detentions; desecration of holy sites; and discrimination against religious groups in employment, education and housing. Harassment and intimidation also include things such as verbal assaults on members of one religious group by other groups or individuals.

Christians and Muslims were harassed in the most countries in 2014. The total number of countries where Christians were harassed increased, while it stayed about the same for Muslims. Christians were harassed in 108 countries in 2014, up from 102 in 2013. Muslims were harassed in 100, compared with 99 in 2013.

The number of countries in which Jews were harassed continued to increase. Jews, who make up 0.2% of the world’s population, were harassed in 81 countries (up from 77 in 2013 and 71 in 2012).

There was an increase in the number of countries in which Hindus were harassed, from nine in 2013 to 14 in 2014. The number of countries in which Buddhists were harassed stayed roughly the same (12 in 2013, compared with 10 in 2014).

Some religious groups are more likely to be harassed by governments, while others are more likely to be harassed by individuals or groups in society (see table below). Jews, for example, were harassed by individuals or groups in society in many more countries (80) than they were by governments (31) in 2014. The number of countries with social harassment of Jews was up sharply from 2013. There was a big increase in the number of countries where Muslims were harassed by some level of government (80 countries in 2014, up from 73 in 2013). There also was a big increase in the number of countries where Christians were harassed by individuals or groups in society (85 countries in 2014, up from 71 in 2013).

Number of countries where religious groups were harassed, by type of harassment