According to a new study from Pew Research Center, despite secularism gaining more importance over the years, religious violence has hit a six-year high across the world. While the world is becoming less violent and warfare is on the decline, religion continues to incite people to commit violence and other atrocities against one another. The study found that religious hostilities reached a six-year high in 2012.
The report released on January 14 stated that different forms of social hostility, including pressure to conform to norms and attacks on minority faiths, had a strong presence in one-third of the 198 countries and territories that were surveyed in 2012. North Africa and the Middle East were among the top ranking places.
According to the report, sectarian violence and religious-related terrorism was witnessed in one-fifth of the countries in 2012 while almost 30 percent of them had legal limits on worship, religious wear and preaching imposed by their respective governments.
Pew Research Center is based in Washington and claims to be a non-partisan organization. Even though it refrained from citing any reasons for the increase in hostility against Muslims, Christians, Jews and others including Baha’is, Sikhs and Atheists, Pew said, “Religious hostilities increased in every major region of the world except the Americas since 2007.” On the other hand, folk religions like Buddhism and Hinduism saw lower levels of hostility since 2007.
Pew also found that some restrictive countries like Indonesia, China, Russia and Egypt have large populations and that is why approximately 76 percent of the total world population faces some form of informal or formal restriction on their faith.
Harassment, official bans and government interference in religious practices increased to 29 percent from 20 percent in 2007. Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Israel and Somalia reported the highest social hostility concerning religion while Egypt, Iran, China, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia ranked as the top five countries with maximum government restriction on religion.
The study suggested, Christianity and Islam, which are considered the two largest faiths in the world, do not only constitute almost half the world’s population, but they also happen to be most widely targeted. While Christians in 110 countries faced social as well as official hostility, Muslims in 109 countries faced the same.
According to the report, there are many more restrictions on religion in the world than Pew’s statistics could realistically document but its results can be perceived as “a good estimate”. Pew classified war and terrorism as social hostility and said, “It is not always possible to determine the degree to which they are religiously motivated or state sponsored.”
Photo Credits: Pew Research Center