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Pew study shows high religious restrictions in 70 percent of world population
A new study by the Pew Forum indicates that 70 percent of the people in the world live in societies with high restrictions on religion, laying the burden on minority faiths within those societies.
The study, Global Restrictions on Religion, was conducted by The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life from 2006 to 2008. Some 198 countries and self-administering territories were surveyed, equivalent to 99.5 percent of the total global population.
The study notes that although countries with the highest restrictions on religion total 64 nations or one-third of the world, their cumulative population totals 70 percent of the total 6.8 billion world population, the website said.
Definition of freedom
The study defines freedom as “the absence of hindrance, restraint, confinement or repression,” the website said. Two sources of restrictions are categorized; first, from the government (through laws, policies and actions), and second, from the society (individuals, organizations and social groups).
The website notes that countries with the highest restriction levels include Iran, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan (from both government and society); Vietnam and China (from government); Nigeria and Bangladesh (from society with moderate government restriction).
In terms of region, the website said the highest government and social restrictions on religion are found in the Middle East-North Africa, while the least restrictive region in terms of both government and society is the Americas.
Among the world’s top 25 most populous nations, the website said those with the most restrictions from both government and society sources are Iran, Indonesia, Egypt, India and Pakistan. Those with the least restrictions from both sources are Japan, Brazil, Italy, the United States, South Africa and the United Kingdom.
Clashes between religious groups were reported by the website in 87 percent of the countries surveyed in the Pew study, with the use of physical violence in 126 countries or 64 percent of the total.
The website noted that in 178 countries (90 percent of the world) religious groups are required to register with the government. Of the total, 117 nations have registration requirements that discriminate against certain faiths and create problems for them.
Source of study
The study referred to 16 sources of information which the website described as “widely cited” and “publicly available.” They include the U.S. State Department, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, the Council of the European Union, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, the Hudson Institute and Amnesty International.
However, North Korea is not included in the study. The website noted that while “sources clearly indicate that North Korea’s government is among the most repressive in the world with respect to religion as well as other civil and political liberties,” the closed-off nature of the government rendered it unavailable for evaluation.