Cross-border religious hostilities include Lebanon's Hezbollah joining the fight in neighboring Syria as well as Hezbollah reportedly having an armory a continent away in northern Nigeria
Smaller religious minorities are also caught up in the Syrian conflict. For instance, in April two Orthodox Christian bishops were kidnapped by gunmen in Aleppo, Syria. Their whereabouts are still unknown.
The recent entry of Lebanon's Hezbollah into the Syrian civil war is a fresh example of how religious hostilities cross borders. According to a Pew Research study, religion-related wars that had cross-border impact affected nearly one-in-ten countries (8%) worldwide between 2009-2011, the most recent years for which data are available.
But Hezbollah's activities can reach far beyond its own neighborhood. The BBC reports that an armory belonging to Hezbollah was discovered this past week in northern Nigeria, supposedly adding to tensions in the west African nation.
Worldwide, 62% of Countries Affected by Cross-National Religious Hostilities and Restrictions
Considering a range of cross-border influences, the analysis by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life finds that between mid-2009 and 2011, influences from abroad were reported to have contributed to religious hostilities or restrictions in 122 of 198 countries, or 62% of all the countries and territories studied.
Social hostilities involving religion can cross international borders, as the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States and their aftermath made clear. More recent examples include the violent street protests that broke out in several Muslim-majority countries in early 2006 after a Danish newspaper published a dozen cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad in September 2005, as well as rioting in northern India in 2009 after a group of Sikh radicals murdered a leader of a minority sect in a Sikh temple in Vienna, Austria, in 2009.
Recently, Michael Adebolajo -- the suspect in the murder of a British soldier Lee Rigby who was hacked to death on May 22 in a street in Woolwich, south-east London -- was arrested in Kenya in 2010 reportedly attempting to travel to Somalia to train with militants, which may have either played a role in his radicalization or was a cross-national manifestation of his already extremist views.
Government restrictions on religion also can have cross-national impacts or influences. In 2010, for instance, the governments of Singapore, Indonesia and several other countries limited at least some activities of the Falun Gong spiritual movement, reportedly in deference to China, which continues to ban the movement. And in 2012, a Saudi Arabian journalist who had been accused of blasphemy by Saudi authorities was extradited to Saudi Arabia by the Malaysian government. (For more on this incident, see my recent TEDx Talk, "The Numbers of Religious Freedom".)
The most common kinds of cross-national influences, in descending order of prevalence, were: tensions over the movement of people (primarily migrants) across international borders; the alleged spread of religious extremism; efforts by governments to influence religious affairs in other countries; religion-related terrorism with cross-border support or impacts; hostile reactions to events that happened or are alleged to have happened in other countries; and religion-related war or armed conflict. (Also see previous blog posts on cross-national religious hostilities and restrictions.)
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