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Pew study: Religious hostilities reach new high in 2012

Restrictions on religion by year
Restrictions on religion by year
Pew Research Center

A new study released Tuesday by the Pew Research Religion and Public Life Project revealed a new record high for hostilities involving religion around the world. In the six years that Pew has been measuring it, each year has seen increased levels of faith-involved violence, restrictions and persecution, and 2012 was no exception. According to their report, "a third (33%) of the 198 countries and terrirories included in the study had high religious hostilities in 2012, up from 29% in 2011 and 20% as of mid-2007." No region was spared an increase but the largest ones occurred in the Middle East and North Africa where, according to Pew, they're still experiencing fallout from the 2010/2011 Arab Spring uprisings.

The studies divide religious hostility into two categories:

  • The Government Restrictions Index (GRI) measures government laws, policies and actions that restrict religious beliefs and practices. The GRI is composed of 20 measures of restrictions, including efforts by governments to ban particular faiths, prohibit conversions, limit preaching or give preferential treatment to one or more religious groups.
  • The Social Hostilities Index (SHI) 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.

The contribution to religion-related hostility by governments remained roughly the same as the previous year (2011) so non-governmental groups and individuals were responsible for the 2012 increases. More countries experienced high or very high levels of religious hostilities too, with the main drivers being things like "abuse of religious minorities by private individuals or groups in society for acts perceived as offensive or threatening to the majority faith of the country" (emphasis Pew's).

More study findings:

"(T)he share of countries where violence, or the threat of violence, was used to compel people to adhere to religious norms also increased in 2012. Such actions occurred in 39% of countries, up from 33% in 2011 and 18% as of mid-2007.

"(H)arrassment of women over religious dress occurred in nearly a third of countries in 2012 (32%), up from a quarter (25%) in 2011 and less-than-one-in-ten (7%) as of mid-2007.

The share of countries experiencing sectarian violence also increased; a trend that has continued through every year reported on so far. Similar trends occur for religion-related mob and terrorist violence.

More results and information on study parameters can be found through the following link:

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