Pew Research Study: Christians faced harassment in more countries than any other religion worldwide

Country: International

Date of incident: November 29, 2022

In November 2022, the Pew Research Center published a new worldwide study on harassment and restrictions against religious groups in 2020. According to the findings, government authorities harassed religious groups in 178 countries in 2020 and social groups or individuals harassed religious groups in 164 countries. Both numbers show a slight decline in comparison to 2019. Christians and Muslims, the largest religions in the world, faced harassment in more countries than any other religious group, same as in previous years. The study documented that Christians were harassed in 155 countries, (2019: 153). Muslims were harassed in 145 countries (2019: 147) and Jews faced harassment in 94 countries (2019: 89).

The Pew Research Center's definition of "harassment" encompasses a wide range of incidents: from verbal abuse to physical violence and killings committed by governments, social groups or individuals. The study documents "cases where individuals or groups feel singled out or unable to express their religious belief or nonbelief." 

198 countries were rated in the study by the levels of government restrictions on religion and of social hostilities towards religion. They use the same 10-point index system as in the years before.


On the one side, the Pew’s Government Restrictions Index (GRI) measures government laws, policies and actions that restrict religious freedom in belief or in practice. The Social Hostilities Index (SHI) measures acts of hostility towards religious groups by private individuals, organizations or groups in society.

The study is based on over a dozen of publicly available data sources, including the U.S. Department of State’s annual peports on international religious freedom and annual reports from the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.

Given that the study focuses on the year 2020, it analyses how the Covid-19 Pandemic was a catalyst for discrimination or intolerance. The study says that Christian groups were "targeted by private individuals and organizations in nine countries" by being blamed for the cases of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The report also comments that even though Jews make up 0.2% of the global population, they were the third most harassed religious group.

Some quotes of the study (reported by the Christian post): 


"In Turkey, an Armenian Orthodox church’s door was set on fire, and news reports said the man told police that he acted because “they [Armenian Christians] brought the coronavirus” to Turkey".

"In Egypt, conspiracy theories blamed the pandemic on the Coptic Orthodox Christian minority, which international Christian observers said exacerbated the discrimination the minority group already faced."

Also in India, two Christians were beaten and killed while they were in police custody for violating COVID-19 curfews in Tamil Nadu, as reported by the U.S. State Department's annual international religious freedom report. 

The study also documented the harassment towards non-religious people, finding out that there was a nine-fold increase in countries where non-religious people faced harassment. United States was among the 27 countries where “religiously unaffiliated people” were harassed in 2020.

“Restrictions on religion don’t just affect those who are religious. Religiously unaffiliated people also are harassed because of what they believe,” is written in a report by research analysts Sarah Crawford and Virginia Villa. The report focuses on harassment against non-religious people.


The report also found that the religiously unaffiliated faced harassment in 12 majority-Muslim nations and six majority-Christian countries. For example, in Pakistan, there is no "no religion" option for the identity cards of non-religious citizens, even though it is a government requirement to state a religious affiliation.


Sources: Pew Research Center, Christian Post

Symbolic Picture: Unsplash