The 10th Annual Report on Religious Restrictions by Pew Research concludes that over the decade 2007-2017 religious restrictions imposed by government and social hostilities against religious groups have reached an all time high in over 187 countries. The report was released before the Covid-19 crisis and so, in the current context, points to the need to increase protections of religious minorities across the world as these religious minority groups could be a target for further persecution and harm.

The report looks at two broad categories – restrictions imposed by governments (laws, policies and actions) on religious groups and social hostility ( violent actions by individuals or organizations) against religious groups.

The above table from the report shows the two groups facing the most persecution across countries are Christians (143 countries) and Muslims (140 countries). Jews faced persecution in 87 countries, Hindus faced persecution in 23 countries, Buddhists in 19 countries and people with unaffiliated connections faced persecution in 23 countries.

Looking at Government persecution, the Middle East and North Africa and the Asian Pacific Region all showed above average trends in religious persecution.

According to the report, Europe emerges as the top three regions with Middle East and North Africa and the Asian Pacific region with increases in social hostility against religious groups.

Another report from the US Commission on International Religious Freedom offers a list of Tier 1 and Tier 2 countries of “particular concern” to pay attention to because of the increase in persecution of religious minorities.

Both these reports provide credible data on the rising trend in religious intolerance across the world and calls for the need for policy attention.

In this global context of the Covid19 crisis, it is important for countries to strengthen both the legal and personal protection of religious minorities as well as ensure public resources including health care and economic relief reaches these minority religious groups. For example, in the United States, ensuring small business and consumer economic assistance progress offer alternative finance products and health care programs are accessible to all.

Protections and inclusion of religious minorities and other minority groups should be an important part of the the Covid Relief programs and resources. Countries should offer dis-aggregated data to assess if these policies, programs and resource are reaching these minority and often persecuted populations.