by Mark Pattison
WASHINGTON (CNS) – A Pew Research Center study issued Jan. 14 shows another increase in hostility toward religion by most of the world’s 198 nations.
The share of countries with a high or very high level of social hostilities involving religion reached a six-year peak in 2012, the study said. The share of countries with a high or very high level of government restrictions on religion, though, stayed roughly the same in 2012, the year reviewed.
This is the fifth time the Pew Research Center has reported on religious restrictions around the globe. The report was issued in advance of the U.S. observance of Religious Freedom Day, Jan. 16.
The number of nations showing hostilities toward Christians rose from 106 to 110, according to the study. Christians have been the subject of religious hostility in more nations than any other group. But those countries showing hostilities toward Muslims jumped from 101 to 109 in 2012.
In fact, hostilities toward Jews, Hindus, Buddhists and folk religionists were all up from 2011 levels. The only group recording a decrease were “others,” which includes Sikhs, Baha’is, Zoroastrians and other groups.
In overall changes taking into account both social hostilities and government restrictions, 61 percent of nations recorded an increase, 29 percent recorded a decrease and 10 percent had no change.
On a scale of 0 to 10, 20 nations were given a score of at least 7.2, indicating very high social hostilities on religion, up from 14 in 2011. Pakistan once again topped the list. New countries joining the list were Syria, Lebanon, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Thailand and Myanmar.
In the case of government restrictions, the number of countries given a score of 6.6 or higher on a zero-to-10 scale indicating very high restrictions increased from 20 in 2011 to 24 in 2012. Egypt led both years. New to the list are Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, Morocco, Iraq and Kazakhstan; Yemen dropped off the list.
“Overall, across the six years of this study, religious groups were harassed in a total of 185 countries at one time or another,” the study said. “Members of the world’s two largest religious groups – Christians and Muslims, who together comprise more than half of the global population – were harassed in the largest number of countries, 151 and 135, respectively.”
On social hostilities involving religion, the Middle East-North Africa region had a score of 6.4, more than twice that of the next-most-hostile region. The Americas had the lowest score at 0.4.
The Pew study cited the August 2012 shooting at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin that left six worshippers dead and three others wounded as an incidence of “religion-related terrorist violence.”