WASHINGTON — About one-third of the countries in the world
have high restrictions on religion, exposing almost 70 percent of the globe’s population
to limitations on their faith, new research shows.
The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life based its
analysis, released Dec. 16, on 16 sources of information, including reports from
the U.S. State Department and human rights groups as well as national
Overall, one-third of the countries were found to have high
or very high restrictions on religion as a result of government rules or
hostile acts by individuals and groups. Religious minorities often feel the brunt
of hostilities because they are perceived as a threat to the culture, politics
or economy of a country’s majority population, the
72-page report said.
“The highest overall levels of restrictions are found in
countries such as Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Iran, where both the government
and society at large impose numerous limits on religious beliefs and practices,”
the Pew Forum concluded.
In some countries, such as China and Vietnam, government restrictions
on religion were high, compared to moderate or low social hostilities. In
contrast, nations such as Bangladesh and Nigeria had moderate level of
government restrictions but ranked high in social hostilities.
Three-quarters of the countries affirm religious freedom in
their laws or constitutions, and an additional 20 percent protect some religious
But researchers found that about a quarter of the governments “fully
respected” the religious rights included in their laws.
The findings were based on an investigation of 198 countries
and territories, which represent 99.5 percent of the world’s population, from
2006 to 2008.