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Religious intolerance jumps alarmingly since 2009

The latest Pew Forum report is as thorough and as interesting as ever, but perhaps more worrying than usual.

  • International
  • September 21, 2012
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A rising tide of restrictions on religion spread across the world between mid-2009 and mid-2010, according to a new study by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life. Restrictions on religion rose in each of the five major regions of the world – including in the Americas and sub-Saharan Africa, the two regions where overall restrictions previously had been declining.

The share of countries with high or very high restrictions on religious beliefs and practices rose from 31% in the year ending in mid-2009 to 37% in the year ending in mid-2010. Because some of the most restrictive countries are very populous, three-quarters of the world’s approximately 7 billion people live in countries with high government restrictions on religion or high social hostilities involving religion, up from 70% a year earlier.

Restrictions on religion rose not only in countries that began the year with high or very high restrictions or hostilities, such as Indonesia and Nigeria, but also in many countries that began with low or moderate restrictions or hostilities, such as Switzerland and the United States.

The rising tide of restrictions in the latest year studied is attributable to a variety of factors, including increases in crimes, malicious acts and violence motivated by religious hatred or bias, as well as increased government interference with worship or other religious practices. For instance, a November 2009 constitutional referendum in Switzerland banned the construction of minarets on mosques in the country.

In Indonesia, more than two dozen churches were forced to close due to pressure from Islamist extremists or, in some instances, local officials. And in Nigeria, violence between Christian and Muslim communities, including a series of deadly attacks, escalated throughout the period.

During the latest year covered in the study, there also was an increase in harassment or intimidation of particular religious groups. Indeed, five of the seven major religious groups monitored by the study – Jews, Christians, Buddhists, adherents of folk or traditional religions, and members of other world religions – experienced four-year highs in the number of countries in which they were harassed by national, provincial or local governments, or by individuals or groups in society.

Full Report: Rising Tide of Restrictions on Religion

Source: The Pew Forum
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