Friday News Roundup: Believe it – 70% of world not allowed to believe

The overwhelming majority of stories we find when researching religious diversity news involve some type of religious intolerance. Well, a shocking new statistic came out this week that explains why: 70% of the world’s population lives without religious freedom.

PEW released a groundbreaking study this week entitled, Global Restrictions on Religion. It’s the first quantitative study that measures two things: government infringement and religious-based violence and harassment. The study covered 198 countries representing 99.5% of the world’s population.

The study doesn’t rank countries from “best” to “worst;” instead it groups them into those with very high restrictions, high restrictions, moderate or low.

While some countries, like Vietnam and China have government restriction on religion, they have very little religious violence. Others are just the opposite: Nigeria and Bangladesh are high in hostilities between civilians, but low in government restriction. When rates are high in both measures, such as in Iran, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, the situation is most intense.

Here are some more interesting stats:

  • The United States, Brazil, Japan, Italy, South Africa and the United Kingdom rank lowest (that is, the least restrictive).
  • Middle East and North Africa have the most government and social religious restrictions while the Americas are the least restrictive region.
  • The percentage of countries with high or very high government restrictions is 20%, which amounts to 57% of the world’s population. This includes Saudi Arabia, Iran and former communist countries, such as Russia, Belarus and Bulgaria.
  • European governments place more restrictions on religion than do governments in sub-Saharan Africa or South America
  • U.S. has relatively few government restrictions, but hostilities here exceed those in several other democracies like Brazil and Japan.

It’s easy to look at these stats and be astounded. As with any study, no matter how comprehensive, results should be taken with a grain of salt, but there’s still a critical take-away: in too many places, individuals are persecuted and attacked because of their religion. PEW has pinpointed areas with the greatest need and reminded us that there’s a great deal of work to be done.

AP, CNN, and The Economist report.

Americans United praises the United States for “getting it right” and FaithWorld weighs in.

And in other news, the “December Dilemma” and “War on Christmas” are still nabbing headlines:

Have a great weekend!