New Pew Forum Report Analyzes Religious Restrictions Around the World

By Pew Research Centers Forum On Religion Public Life, PRNE
Monday, August 8, 2011

WASHINGTON, August 9, 2011 -

More than 2.2 billion people, nearly a third (32%) of the world’s total population of 6.9 billion, live in countries where either government restrictions on religion or social hostilities involving religion rose substantially between mid-2006 and mid-2009, according to a new study on global restrictions on religion released today by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life. Only about 1% of the world’s population lives in countries where government restrictions or social hostilities declined.

In general, most of the countries that experienced substantial increases in government restrictions or social hostilities involving religion already had high or very high levels of restrictions or hostilities. By contrast, nearly half of the countries that had substantial decreases in restrictions or hostilities already scored low. This suggests that there may be a gradual polarization taking place in which countries that are relatively high in religious restrictions are becoming more restrictive, while those that are relatively low are becoming less restrictive.

These are among the key findings of Rising Restrictions on Religion, the Pew Forum’s second report on global restrictions on religion. The study is part of the Pew-Templeton Global Religious Futures project, an effort funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts and the John Templeton Foundation to analyze religious change and its impact on societies around the world.

Like the baseline report, the new study scores 198 countries and territories (more than 99.5% of the world’s population) on a total of 33 measures phrased as questions about government restrictions and social hostilities. The study uses 18 widely cited, publicly available information sources, including reports by the United Nations, the U.S. State Department and Human Rights Watch.

The full report - including a summary of results, index scores by region, results by country, the methodology and an interactive graphic showing the levels of restrictions in the worlds’ 25 most populous countries - is available on the Pew Forum’s website.

The Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life conducts surveys, demographic analyses and other social science research on important aspects of religion and public life in the U.S. and around the world. As part of the Washington-based Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan, nonadvocacy organization, the Pew Forum does not take positions on policy debates or any of the issues it covers.

Mary Schultz, +1-202-419-4556; Liga Plaveniece, +1-202-419-4586

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