About one-fifth of the world’s governments limited freedom of belief for at least one spiritual group, a study found on Nov. 15.

The Washington-based Pew Research Center found 41 countries banned at least one religious organization during 2019. This includes social movements, political groups linked to religion, and even entire faiths.

The Asia Pacific region had the highest number of countries with bans (17). The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was arguably the most notorious human rights abuser, declaring people with high moral values as “cult organization” members. Their only crime was behaving truthfully, compassionately, and with tolerance in daily life–which seemingly contradicts the CCP’s atheism and materialism.

“These include the Falun Gong movement and several Christian groups, which face detentions and ‘disappearances’ and, in some cases, torture and death according to the U.S. State Department,” research associate Samirah Majumdar said in a statement.

“In 2019, several reports also detailed the forcible extraction of organs from religious prisoners–mainly from Falun Gong practitioners–that for years were conducted for the country’s organ transplant system,” she added.

The United Nations (UN) recently backed this view, condemning the CCP’s alleged organ harvesting as “extremely” alarming. The intergovernmental organization cited “credible information” that clearly shows that peaceful Falun Gong, Uighur, Tibetan, Muslim and Christian people are forcibly subjected to blood tests, ultrasounds, x-rays, and other forms of medical examination without consent. This is despite the absence of any requirement for prisoners of conscience to undergo such medical tests.

“Forced organ harvesting in China appears to be targeting specific ethnic, linguistic or religious minorities held in detention—often without explaining the reasons for their arrest; or they are given arrest warrants—at different locations,” the UN previously said. “We are deeply concerned by reports of discriminatory treatment of the prisoners or detainees based on their ethnicity and religion or belief.”

The UN also criticized the CCP for registering test results in a living source database for “organ allocation.” State-run healthcare providers allegedly use the information to find potential buyers who can pay anywhere up to $1 million per organ.

The Middle East-North Africa region was home to 11 countries that prohibit religion-related groups while Europe had three and the Americas two. According to the Pew Research Center, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Baha’is were the most frequently banned groups.

Majumdar revealed these findings are based on the center’s latest restrictions on religion report, which examines which governments and societies “impinge” on religious groups.

She suggested the actual number of countries that ban religious groups might be higher than reported.

“In some cases, governments may restrict or target specific groups within their borders but not formally ban them; these groups are not counted as banned,” she said. “The source documents also may not cover every religion-related ban in the world or capture every country in which a group is banned.”

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