Pew: More Global Religious Freedom Despite Rising Religious Violence

New findings from the Pew-Templeton Global Religious Futures project, which analyzes religious change and its impact on societies around the world, show that in terms of religious freedom, things have taken a recent turn for the better. Pew reports that the number of countries with high or very high restrictions and hostilities declined in 2014 (Pew does not yet have data on 2015). This includes both government restrictions on religion and societal hostilities involving religious practice.

Pew’s data indicate a year-over-year declines in religious strictures dating back to 2012, and a five year low in social hostility involving religion. The data is represented as a percentage of 198 total countries having high or very high levels of governmental and societal limitations on religious practice.

In 2014, 24% of the countries studied were found to have high or very high government restrictions on religion and 23% had high or very high social hostilities involving religion, down from 2012 highs of 29% and 33%, respectively.

The report covers an eight-year period (2007-2014), and shows growth in government restrictions on religion from 2007 to 2012, and then two years of declines.

Despite modest reductions in the number of countries facing religious restrictions, Pew’s data still provide ample room for concern. Pew reports that, “Although only about a quarter of the countries included in the study fall into the most religiously restrictive categories, some of the most restrictive countries (such as Indonesia and Pakistan) are very populous. As a result, roughly three-quarters of the world’s 7.2 billion people (74%) were living in countries with high or very high restrictions or hostilities in 2014, down slightly from 77% in 2013.”

Also troubling is Pew’s finding that religious terrorism rose in the same period. Pew notes an “increase in the number of countries that experienced religion-related terrorist activities, including acts carried out by such groups as Boko Haram, al-Qaida and the Islamic State (also known as ISIS or ISIL).” Terrorist activities include recruitment and violence.

The Pew data present a mixed message: “There was a decline,” Pew reports, “in the number of countries in which individuals were assaulted or displaced from their homes in retaliation for religious activities considered offensive or threatening to the majority faith in their country, state or province.” Along with those declines, “there also was a decline in the number of countries where threats of violence were used to enforce religious norms and a global decline in the incidence of mob violence related to religion.”

The Global Religious Futures project is jointly funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts and the John Templeton Foundation. The study ranks 198 countries and territories by their levels of government restrictions on religion and social hostilities involving religion. The 2014 study is based on the same 10-point indexes used in previous studies spanning the last seven years.

For more on the study’s findings and methodologies, see Pew’s report, “Trends in Global Restrictions on Religion.”

Jared Wright is Managing Editor of SpectrumMagazine.org.

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/7583
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In the NEW Isis Nation which takes in the Middle East [except for Israel, so far], North Africa, and many other African countries along the Horn and elsewhere,
There IS Religious Freedom AS LONG as one does what Isis men with their machine guns say is The Religion behaviors.
This includes the Dress Code, the Music Code, and many other Codes.
Yes!! Isis allows Religious Freedom to perform the Muslim Religion THEIR WAY.

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Every religious preaching has it favourite disease. The exclusive patent rights on Loving or Killing.

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After multiple decades of Adventism, and our commission to “preach the gospel to all the world, and then shall the end come”, it is dismaying and disheartening to still see huge world populations where governmental and entrenched religious forces prevent any entrance of the gospel.

When the very core of Islam, their written codes, demand the death penalty for those joining another faith, or even proclaiming agnosticism or atheism, where
"honor killings " by family members are not only tolerated but encouraged, how can Christianity prosetylise when the outcome for the converted soul is the death penalty??

Ugliness prevails even in Christian countries, like Uganda and other East African locales. Politicians, aided and abetted by American evangelical groups, favor religion based laws demanding the death penalty for gays–a persecuted minority who had no choice in their sexual orientation.

When one major US party favors LGBT discrimination on a religious basis, in their party platform, I see little hope for widespread religious freedom in today’s world.

All this does not augur well for a speedy return of our savior, since despite television, radio, Internet and modern media, inroads into impenetrable Islamic countries are excruciatingly, glacially, slow.

Meanwhile, in USA, when even segments of Adventism condone governmental laws. (Proposition eight in Californai, bathroom laws in North Carolina) that impose “Christian” values on a largely secular society, can Sunday Laws, religiously based, be far behind??

The Church was established BY the blood of Martyrs. Perhaps that is the only way it works?

May it be blessed.

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Actually thats a myth. Historical studies have shown that the church grew much more during times without persecution. But people keep quoting it uncritically because it has dramatic appeal. See Candida Moss, The Myth of Persecution: How Early Christians Invented a Story of Martyrdom (2013).