New Study About Religious Hostility Around the Globe Isn’t Very Encouraging

On the heels of an Open Doors USA report highlighting worsening conditions for religious freedom around the globe, The Pew Research Center has released new analysis showing equally disturbing results.

According to the study, social religious hostilities — acts carried out by private groups against people or groups of faith — across the globe have reached a six-year high.

Image source: Pew Research Center

Thirty-three percent of the 198 localities included in the review had high social religious hostility in 2012. This was an increase from 29 percent in 2011 and 20 percent in 2007.

The only place in the world where religious social hostilities did not increase was the Americas, a press release explained, going on to note that the Middle East and North Africa saw the biggest upticks.

The Asia-Pacific, too, experienced an increase, with China becoming a bigger area for concern.

These numbers are based on The Social Hostilities Index (SHI), which “measures acts of religious hostility by private individuals, organizations or groups in society.”

A second measure, The Government Restrictions Index (GRI) looks at “government laws, policies and actions that restrict religious beliefs and practices.”

The numbers observed on this latter front are equally troubling.

While there hasn’t been a radical increase in government restrictions on religion when compared with previous waves of the study, 29 percent of countries still had a high or very high level of restriction in 2012. This proportion was 28 percent in 2011 and 20 percent in 2007.

“Europe had the biggest increase in the median level of government restrictions in 2012, followed closely by the Middle East-North Africa — the only other region where the median level of government restrictions on religion rose,” the report explained.

Pew looked at 198 countries and territories to assess conditions on the ground. In examining social religious hostilities, Senior Researcher Brian J. Grimm told TheBlaze that the research firm looked at “concrete acts of hostility that had some religious element to them.”

So, rather than a measure of attitudes, the research in this portion of the study was based on physical events that have been recorded in each nation and territory. Grimm said that there were 13 types of hate crimes involving religion, including: mob violence, sectarian violence, terrorism and attacks on women over their clothing, among others.

“We look at a number of cross-national sources that report on these types of hostilities and then in essence count them up so the more that occur and the more sever they are, the higher they are on the index,” he explained of the research.

Grimm said the data show that there is a connection between government restrictions on religion and social religious hostility. In some instances across the globe, religious hostility has actually triggered greater government crackdowns on faith.

“The more things get out of hand, the more repression happens,” he said.

Grimm also noted that people are moving around the world more freely than they had been in the past, which could be impacting cross-boundary increases on the social hostility front. While buying an airline ticket was once a once in a lifetime opportunity for some, with greater mobility today it is now easier to spread attitudes across borders.

There’s also the spread of religion-related terror, as the research has shown that more than one-third of countries have some kind of faith-affiliated terror group active within their borders in some way. These groups sometimes operate in numerous countries while simultaneously permeating borders.

But it seems governments, too, are helping one another when it comes to governmental crackdowns, according to Grimm.

“A young Saudi journalist tweeted his doubts about his faith. It wasn’t anything serious by western standards,” he said, citing an example. “But in Saudi Arabia … there were calls for death.”

So when this journalist attempted to flee to Australia, his plane stopped in Malaysia, where officials there detained him and extradited him back to Saudi Arabia, where he spent a year in jail. This, Grimm said, shows just how interconnected the world is when it comes to religious hostilities.

Read the complete report here and use the interactive graphic below to explore the social and governmental crackdowns on religion among the world’s 25 most populous countries:

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