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Study: Christians are the most persecuted religious group in the world

By Teresa Welsh • Jun 28, 2016 at 11:00 AM

WASHINGTON — Christians are the most persecuted of any religious group around the world, facing harassment in 108 countries.

A study by Pew Research Center found that harassment of Christians in 2014 by both governments and society as a whole increased from 102 countries in 2013. The study considered harassment to be both verbal and physical assaults as well as arrests, detentions and desecration of holy sites. Discrimination on religious grounds was also found in employment, education and housing decisions.

There are 2.3 billion Christians worldwide, and it is estimated 8,000 are martyred each year. This is equivalent to one person dying in the name of the faith each hour of every day.

Christians are slightly more likely to be harassed by individuals or groups in society rather than governments as a whole. Government harassment took place in 79 countries, while social harassment was recorded in 85.

There has been an increase in the number of countries that have experienced terrorist activity related to religion. Eighty-two countries had such terrorist activity in 2014, and in 60 countries that activity led to injuries or death.

The study surveyed the status of religion in 198 countries and found that both government and social restrictions on people of faith decreased slightly worldwide. Government restrictions dropped from 28 percent to 24 percent, and social harassment dropped from 27 percent to 23 percent. About 75 percent of people live in countries with high or very high restrictions on religion.

The harassment of other religious groups also rose in 2014, including both Jews and Muslims. The harassment of Jews reached an eight-year high, with members of that religion being harassed in 81 countries.

Muslims have the second-highest rate of religious persecution after Christians, experiencing harassment in 100 countries. Muslims are about as likely to be harassed by both governments and society, but Jews are much more likely to be harassed by society (80 percent) than governments (31 percent).

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©2016 McClatchy Washington Bureau

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