(CNS News) - Restrictions,
harassment, and intimidation towards people who practice their religion
increased in every major region of the world in 2012 except the
Americas, with Christians the major target, says a new report by the Pew Research Center.
“Muslims and Jews experienced six-year highs in the number of
countries in which they were harassed by national, provincial or local
governments,” the study found, but Christians continue to be the world’s
most oppressed religious group, with persecution against them reported
in 110 countries.
A recent report
by the Christian group Open Doors noted that “North Korea remains the
world’s most restrictive nation in which to practice Christianity,”
followed by Somalia, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Maldives,
Pakistan, Iran and Yemen.
More than “5.3 billion people (76% of the world’s population) live in
countries with a high or very high level of restrictions on religion,”
Pew noted, “up from 74% in 2011 and 68% as of mid-2007.”
A fifth of the world's nations (20%) also experienced religious
terrorism or sectarian violence in 2012, Pew researchers found, which
was “up markedly from 2007 (9%).”
President Obama expressed hope that the “Arab Spring” would give rise
to greater religious freedom in North Africa and the Middle East, which
has had the world’s highest level of hostility towards religion in
every year since 2007, when Pew first began measuring it. However, the
study finds that these regions actually experienced the largest increase
in religious hostilities in 2012.
Across the six years that Pew has conducted the study, Christians
were being harassed for their faith in 151 countries and Muslims in 135.
Together they represent the world’s two largest religious groups and
more than half of the world’s population.
Jews, who make up less than 1% of the world’s population, experienced
religious persecution in 95 countries. Researchers also found an
increase in religious harassment in countries where Hindus, Buddhists or
followers of other traditional religions predominated.
"Among the world's 25 most populous countries, Egypt, Indonesia,
Russia, Pakistan and Burma (Myanmar) had the most restrictions on
religion in 2012,” the report stated. Pakistan had the highest level of
social hostilities involving religion, while Egypt had the highest level
of government restrictions on religious practice, Pew found. - CNS News: Pew Study: Christians Are The World’s Most Oppressed Religious Group
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