Indeed, recent studies by the Pew Research Center find that although Chinese government restrictions on religion have been and remain very high, social hostilities involving religion – which previously were low in the country – have risen into the moderate range over the past five years. And a Pew Research study looking at the U.S. situation finds that government restrictions on religion and social hostilities involving religion – while relatively low to moderate – have both been increasing in recent years.
For more on rising social hostilities involving religion in China, see my recent TEDx Talk and previous China blogs. For more on the situation in the U.S., see the Pew Research Center’s 2012 analysis and my previous U.S. blogs.
While the human rights discussions in Kunming will focus on concerns of the U.S. and China, they take place in a much larger context in which members of religious groups share in the experience of being harassed in the vast majority of the world’s countries.
Harassment and intimidation by governments or social groups take many forms, including physical assaults, arrests and detentions, the desecration of holy sites and discrimination against religious groups in employment, education and housing. Harassment and intimidation also include such things as verbal assaults on members of one religious group by other groups or individuals.
The Pew Research study finds that harassment or intimidation of specific religious groups occurred in 160 of 198 countries (81%) in 2011, the same number as in the year ending in mid-2010. In 2011, government or social harassment of Muslims was reported in 101 countries; the previous high was 96 countries in the first year of the study. Jews were harassed in 69 countries in 2011, about the same as the year before (68 countries, which was the previous high). As noted above, harassment of Christians continued to be reported in the largest number of countries (105), although this represented a decrease from the previous year (111).
Links to the list of countries where incidents of religious harassment were reported in 2010 and 2011 for Christians, Muslims, Jews, Others, Folk religionists, Hindus and Buddhists. (Incidents of religious harassment of people with no religious affiliation were also documented but not reported as a separate category by the Pew Research Center.)
In 2011, some religious groups were more likely to be harassed by governments, while others were more likely to be harassed by individuals or groups in society. Jews, for instance, experienced social harassment in many more countries (63) than they faced government harassment (28). Similarly, followers of folk and traditional faiths faced social harassment in four times the number of countries (21) as they faced government harassment (5). By contrast, members of other world faiths, such as Sikhs and Baha’is, were harassed by some level of government in about twice as many countries (39) as they were by groups or individuals in society (18).