World-religions-iStock_000018561922SmallReporting that hostility and violence surrounding religion is at a 6-year high, Pew Research says this is a global issue. The Americas are the only region not seeing a noted increase.

A third (33%) of the 198 countries and territories included in the study had high religious hostilities in 2012, up from 29% in 2011 and 20% as of mid-2007. The sharpest increase was in the Middle East and North Africa, which still is feeling the effects of the 2010-11 political uprisings known as the Arab Spring.There also was a significant increase in religious hostilities in the Asia-Pacific region, where China edged into the “high” category for the first time.

The study notes that about one-third of the nations in the world have high or very high restrictions on religion and religious activities, with Europe seeing the biggest increase in these types of restrictions. Pew Research uses two indices to quantify religious hostility:  the Government Restrictions Index  (GRI) and the Social Hostilities Index (SHI). The first takes into account a government’s laws and policies regarding religion and religious practices. The Social Hostilities Index

measures acts of religious hostility by private individuals, organizations or groups in society. This includes religion-related armed conflict or terrorism, mob or sectarian violence, harassment over attire for religious reasons or other religion-related intimidation or abuse. The SHI includes 13 measures of social hostilities.


It is the area of social hostility where the greatest increase has been seen. Much of this focuses on incidents against religious minorities. For instance, Christians in overwhelming Muslim countries have seen a large increase in physcial attacks, church-burnings, etc. Other groups are targeted as well:

In Buddhist-majority Sri Lanka, for example, monks attacked Muslim and Christian places of worship, including reportedly attacking a mosque in the town of Dambulla in April 2012 and forcibly occupying a Seventh-day Adventist church in the town of Deniyaya and converting it into a Buddhist temple in August 2012.And in Muslim-majority Egypt, attacks on Coptic Orthodox Christian churches and Christian-owned businesses were on the rise well before the acceleration in attacks that took place following the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in July 2013 (which falls outside the date range studied in this analysis). For instance, in August 2012, in the village of Dahshur, a dispute between a Christian and a Muslim led to one death and more than a dozen injuries. Several Christian homes and businesses were destroyed and nearly all Christian families fled the village.

There is also an increase in people being coerced into following norms set by the government, harassment of those wearing traditional religious garb (such as Muslim women who wear head scarves) and religious-based terrorist attacks. Pakistan and Afghanistan are the two countries that see the greatest social hostility in terms of religion, whereas Egypt and China have the highest governmental restrictions.

Read “Religious Hostilities Reach Six-Year High” at Pew Research.

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