Edited by Brian J. Grim (Georgetown and Boston University), Todd M. Johnson (Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary), Vegard Skirbekk (Columbia University), Gina A. Zurlo, (Boston University).
Email submission ideas for the 2017 edition to Gina Zurlo <email@example.com>.
The Yearbook of International Religious Demography presents an annual snapshot of the state of religious statistics around the world. Every year large amounts of data are collected through censuses, surveys, polls, religious communities, scholars, and a host of other sources. These data are collated and analyzed by research centers and scholars around the world. Large amounts of data appear in analyzed form in the World Religion Database (Brill), aiming at a researcher’s audience. The Yearbook presents data in sets of tables and scholarly articles spanning social science, demography, history, and geography. Each issue offers findings, sources, methods, and implications surrounding international religious demography. Each year an assessment is made of new data made available since the previous issue of the yearbook.
Edited by Brian J. Grim (Georgetown and Boston University), Todd M. Johnson (Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary), Vegard Skirbekk (Columbia University), Gina A. Zurlo, (Boston University).
The March terror attacks ranging from those in Brussels, Belgium, to Lahore, Pakistan, are part of such ongoing tragic bloodshed impacting various regions of the world. In February, the Centre on Religion & Geopolitics' (CRG) Global Extremism Monitor found that more than 3,400 people were killed in extremist violence and counter-extremist efforts.
The new report argues that defeating the scourge of religious extremism will only be possible once we grasp the scale of the challenge. The two deadly attacks in Belgium's capital Brussels reminded us that this is a global problem.
The Centre on Religion & Geopolitics (CRG) tracks violent and non-violent incidents of religious extremism, and responses to it, around the world. Read the details of the CRG's second issue of their new monthly Global Extremism Monitor. Their data show that in February 2016, at least 3,405 lives were lost as some 22 religious extremist groups instigated violence across the world and states battled to defeat them. Among the dead were 1,620 militants, 660 members of the security forces, and 936 civilians.
Download the full report.
The CRG Monitor recorded 647 incidents in 54 countries, including both extremist and counter-extremist activities, in February. This included major non-state counter-extremism efforts, such as the Centre for Strategic and International Studies' launch of a commission on countering violent extremism.
The CRG's findings are a low estimate, based on open source data in English. CRG's analysts were careful to include only incidents they were sure counted as religious extremism. As in their January report, much of the violence we recorded was outside the Middle East and North Africa. Only 52 per cent was in the region. Thirty-four per cent was in sub-Saharan Africa, and 13 per cent in Central and South Asia.
ISIS was by far the deadliest extremist group, killing at least 1,123 in at least 69 attacks. By contrast, al-Qaeda killed 176 people in 43 assaults.
Fewer than half of the global fatalities in the battle against religious extremism occurred in the Middle East and North Africa; 39 per cent were in sub-Saharan Africa. In Somalia alone, we recorded 38 attacks by al-Qaeda affiliate al-Shabaab.
The world's attention on the Syrian civil war rightly noted the fall in violence as a partial truce came into effect at the end of the month. In fact, few attacks in February made headlines like January's high-profile assaults in Jakarta and Istanbul. Yet globally, the deadly threat of religious extremism remained.
Read the full report of the CRG's Global Extremism Monitor findings for February 2016.
Although Cuba's constitution provides for freedom of religion and prohibits discrimination based on religion, the government actively monitors religious groups, and the Cuban Communist Party, through its Office of Religious Affairs (ORA), controls many aspects of religious life, according to the latest U.S. State Department report on international religious freedom.
The report documents government harassment of outspoken religious leaders and their followers, which include reports of beatings, threats, detentions, and restrictions on travel. The report notes that religious leaders also are experiencing tightened controls on financial resources. Nevertheless, religious groups reported a continued increase in the ability of their members to conduct some charitable and educational projects, such as operating after-school and community service programs, and maintaining small libraries of religious materials, including fewer restrictions on the importation of Bibles.
The State Department report, on a much more positive note, observes that there were no significant societal actions affecting religious freedom. This indicates that Cuba's relatively high restrictions on religion are unnecessary and that fewer controls would likely set free positive contributions of faith to society.
In Global Perspective:
An ongoing Pew Research study scores Cuba among nearly 200 countries and territories on two 10-point indexes:
Source: Pew Research Center
Source: Pew Research Center
According to a new report released last week by the Knights of Columbus and In Defense of Christians, ISIS is committing genocide — the “crime of crimes” — against Christians and other religious groups in Syria, Iraq and Libya.
The report argues that it is time for the United States to join the rest of the world by naming it "genocide" and by taking action against it as required by law. The report documents ISIS’ activities, including killings, rapes, torture, kidnappings, bombings and the destruction of religious property and monuments.
The executive summary of the report states that the "European Parliament, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, and the Iraqi and Kurdish governments have labeled ISIS’ actions genocide. Political leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights — have done likewise. Indeed, Secretary of State John Kerry in August 2014 stated: “ISIL’s campaign of terror against the innocent, including Yezidi (sic) and Christian minorities, and its grotesque and targeted acts of violence bear all the warning signs and hallmarks of genocide.”
"Pope Francis and Cyril, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, have decried the genocide in these countries against Christians and other religious groups. Most movingly, archbishops and patriarchs of ancient Christian communities in Syria and Iraq have spoken out clearly against this crime and cried over the blood of their people and ISIS’ efforts to rid their homelands forever of the Christian faithful.
"None of these declarations of genocide excluded Christians, who, with the other religious minorities in the region, have endured targeted attacks at the hands of this radical group and its affiliates because of their religious beliefs.
ABOUT THE KNGHTS OF COLUMBUS: Thanks to the efforts of Father Michael J. McGivney, assistant pastor of St. Mary’s Church in New Haven and some of his parishioners, the Connecticut state legislature on March 29, 1882, officially chartered the Knights of Columbus as a fraternal benefit society. The Order is still true to its founding principles of charity, unity and fraternity. The Knights was formed to render financial aid to members and their families. Mutual aid and assistance are offered to sick, disabled and needy members and their families. Social and intellectual fellowship is promoted among members and their families through educational, charitable, religious, social welfare, war relief and public relief works. The history of the Order shows how the foresight of Father Michael J. McGivney, whose cause for sainthood is being investigated by the Vatican, brought about what has become the world's foremost Catholic fraternal benefit society. The Order has helped families obtain economic security and stability through its life insurance, annuity and long-term care programs, and has contributed time and energy worldwide to service in communities. The Knights of Columbus has grown from several members in one council to more than 15,100 councils and 1.9 million members throughout the United States, Canada, the Philippines, Mexico, Poland, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Panama, the Bahamas, the Virgin Islands, Cuba, Guatemala, Guam, Saipan, Lithuania, Ukraine, and South Korea.
"On February 4, the Knights of Columbus co-authored a letter to Secretary Kerry requesting a meeting to brief him on evidence that established that the situation confronting Christians and other religious minorities constitutes genocide. While there has never been an official response to that letter, the Knights of Columbus were contacted by senior State Department officials who requested our assistance in making the case that Christians are victims of genocide at the hands of ISIS. Given the specificity of the information requested, our focus in this report is on the situation confronting Christians in areas that are or have been under ISIS control, primarily in Iraq, Syria and Libya.
"ISIS has also targeted Yazidis and other religious minority groups in a manner consistent with genocide. Thus, our contention is not that Christians should be designated as the sole group facing genocide, but rather, that given the overwhelming evidence and the international consensus on this issue, that the United States government should not exclude Christians from such a finding. Doing so would be contrary to fact."
The evidence the report presents to the State Department has three major components:
Saluting CEO commitment and innovation to advance interfaith understanding & peace
The Global Business & Interfaith Peace Awards recognize business leaders – current or past CEOs – who have demonstrated leadership in championing interfaith understanding and peace.
Awards will be presented on September 6, 2016, at the start of the Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, where award recipients will have the opportunity to present their commitment to interfaith understanding and peace while contributing to the UN Sustainable Development Goal 16.*
The Awards are a partnership initiative of the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation (RFBF), its Brazilian affiliate, the Associação pela Liberdade Religiosa e Negócios (ALRN), and the United Nations Global Compact Business for Peace (B4P) platform.
NOMINATIONS WILL BE ACCEPTED IN FOUR CATEGORIES:
Championing interfaith understanding and peace through a company’s core business operations, including internal procedures, human resources hiring practices, training, product/service development, sourcing policies, supply chains, as well as the development of products and services that promote interfaith understanding and peace.
Social investment and philanthropy
Financial and in-kind contributions, and strategic social investment support for NGOs, UN and multilateral agencies or directly to affected communities and/or contribution of functional expertise through volunteering efforts.
Advocacy and public policy engagement
Fostering social cohesion and inter-group dialogue and relationship-building in the workplace, marketplace and local community.
Partnership and collective action
Joining forces with Governments, UN entities, civil society organizations and/or other businesses to act collectively to promote interfaith understanding and peace and forge long-term partnerships for local or regional economic and sustainable development.
Nomination Period: 22 February – 30 April 2016
→ Nominations Information & Form
Read Business Examples
DOWNLOAD: Awards 2016 one-pager
Nominees are invited to join the UN Global Compact and its Business for Peace platform and, make the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation’s corporate pledge to protect freedom of religion or belief (FoRB)
Interfaith Understanding and Peace as Prerequisites for Business Success
Interfaith understanding – and its contribution to peace – is in the interest of business. Recent research shows that economic growth and global competitiveness are stronger when social hostilities involving religion are low and Government respect for the universally recognized human right of freedom of religion or belief is high.
Interfaith understanding also strengthens business by reducing corruption and encouraging broader freedoms while also increasing trust and fostering respect. Research shows that laws and practices stifling religion are related to higher levels of corruption. Similarly, religious freedom highly correlates with a range of social and economic goods, such as better health care and higher incomes for women.
Positively engaging around the issue of interfaith understanding also helps business to advance trust and respect with consumers, employees and possible partner organizations, which can give companies a competitive advantage as sustainability and ethics come to the forefront of engagement with society.
* SDG-16: Promoting peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, providing access to justice for all and building effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.
The Taiwan Declaration for Religious Freedom was personally launched by the President (Su Jia-chyuan, pictured standing) and Vice President (Tsai Chi-chang, on right) of Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan, or Parliament (國會, guóhuì), together with former Taiwan Vice President (Annette Lu, center), in Taipei, on February 19, 2016.
During the deliberations, attended by representatives of dozens of governments and country representatives, the mounting challenges to religious freedom in Asia-Pacific and worldwide were addressed.
Below is the Declaration, as released on February 19. A final version with all signatories is forthcoming. (For background, click here.)
TAIWAN DECLARATION ON RELIGIOUS FREEDOM
Whereas the universal right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion is protected through international law as defined by the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Whereas reports by non-governmental organizations, such as Freedom House and government agencies such as the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom indicate, religious freedom and related human rights abuse in the Asia Pacific region continue to deteriorate, and threaten regional security and stability.
Whereas the International Panel of Parliamentarians for Freedom of Religion or Belief (IPPFoRB) and the Inter-Governmental Contact Group for Freedom Religion or Belief are building and strengthening global efforts to promote this fundamental freedom.
Whereas research by the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation indicates that the advancement of freedom of religion or belief has a direct correlation with the advancement of democracy, basic human rights, economic prosperity, and thriving civil societies.
Whereas Taiwan has proven to be a model for the Asia Pacific region in promoting human rights, including freedom of religion or belief within in its borders and abroad, and is a strategic location for coordinating human rights initiatives in the Asia Pacific region.
Whereas religious freedom advocates from both government and non-governmental sectors and religious leaders gathered in Taiwan representing 27 countries collectively commit to advancing freedom of religion or belief and related human rights in the Asia Pacific.
Whereas restrictions on freedom of religion or belief have directly contributed to forced immigration and increased number of refugees fleeing government sponsored or tolerated persecution, and subsequently created humanitarian crises in the Asia Pacific region.
Thus, we the signed declare a commitment to establish and reinforce existing networks of religious freedom advocates dedicated to promoting freedom of religion or belief in their respective countries and in the Asia Pacific region, including the creation of both governmental and non-governmental mechanisms to promote freedom of religion or belief and related human rights in our respective communities and countries as a whole.
Further declare a commitment to identify opportunities for partnership with religious and government leaders and representatives from non-governmental organizations and other religious freedom advocates in order to build strategic relationships to promote freedom of religion or belief in the Asia Pacific region.
Further declare a commitment to coordinate and expand advocacy efforts to advance freedom of religion or belief in the Asia Pacific region, including through diplomatic engagement among governments, interfaith cooperation among religious leaders, and representatives from non-governmental organizations and academic institutions.
Further declare a commitment to respond to immigration and refugee issues, including providing safe-haven and human services for individuals and communities affected by restrictions and violations on religious freedom and related human rights.
Further declare a commitment to an awareness of the socio-economic benefits of advancing freedom of religion or belief and an inherent pledge to utilize this knowledge in our respective communities and countries and throughout the Asia Pacific region.
Further declare a commitment to publicly condemn any act of intolerance, discrimination, persecution, or violence perpetrated in the name of religion, and to protecting the rights of religious minorities or other religious communities restricted from teaching, practicing, worshiping or observing their religious traditions.
Further declare that freedom of thought, conscience and religion is an inalienable human right, encompassing the right to hold or not to hold any faith or belief, to change belief, and to be free from coercion to adopt a different belief, and that to be fully enjoyed other incorporated rights must also be respected, such as the freedoms of expression, assembly, education, and movement.
Therefore, the signers of the Taiwan Declaration urge all governments, religious institutions, academic institutions, and non-governmental organizations to actively advance freedom of religion or belief by adopting formal written commitments and public statements to upholding freedom of religion or belief in their respective communities and countries.
Weekly Number author, Brian Grim, will make the economic case for religious freedom at the Asia Pacific Religious Freedom Forum,* a global gathering of government and civic leaders committed to advancing religious freedom across Asia.
The economic case draws on recent arguments and research by RFBF made in Forbes, at the World Economic Forum's Global Agenda Council on the Role of Faith, in case studies co-published with the United Nations Global Compact's Business for Peace Platform, and at last month's soft launch of our corporate pledge in support of freedom of religion and belief at the Newseum in Washington, DC.
In a recent article in Forbes, Grim along with Brian Walsh argue that even though the United States is still the world’s largest economy, today two Asian countries—neither historically nor majority Christian—have the second and third largest economies. The Pacific Rim as a whole, one of the most ethnically and religiously diverse regions on earth, is now also one of the most economically dynamic. The strength of the global economy has become religiously diverse, and this diversity will only increase in the next few decades.
According to a new study by the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation carried out for the World Economic Forum's Global Agenda Council on the Role of Faith, the globe’s growing religious diversity is likely to be one of the 21st century’s most important developments for businesses and policymakers around the world. Burgeoning religious populations with greater wealth will have greater political influence, and this has the potential to either undermine or enhance social stability and economic strength.
To navigate this new economic landscape well—and to ensure continued economic growth—it will be vital that national and business leaders emphasize the protection of minority groups’ human rights, especially the rights and liberties of all religious groups. Government protection for the dignity and freedoms of all religious groups is the only way to ensure the full economic participation and prosperity of these groups as they also interact in new ways, and do so in free and peaceful environments.
For more, see the case studies co-published with the United Nations Global Compact's Business for Peace Platform, and at last month's soft launch of our corporate pledge in support of freedom of religion and belief at the Newseum in Washington, DC.
ASIA PACIFIC RELIGIOUS FREEDOM FORUM (APRFF)*
The Asia Pacific Religious Freedom Forum is an invitation only gathering of religious freedom advocates committed to promoting religious freedom in their respective countries and abroad, from Feb. 18-21 in Taoyuan, Taiwan.
The Asia Pacific Religious Freedom Forum will bring together leaders of non-governmental organizations, religious leaders, and parliamentarians and other government representatives to address the deteriorating state of religious freedom and related human rights in the Asia Pacific region and the needed collaborative response from the international community.
Discussions will focus on specific themes related to advancing religious freedom in the Asia Pacific region, including coordinating advocacy efforts and diplomatic engagement, addressing related immigration and refugee issues and evaluating the socio-economic impact of religious freedom.
The Asia Pacific Religious Freedom Forum will feature speakers such as Matteo Mecacci, the President of International Campaign for Tibet; Brian Grim, President of Religious Freedom and Business Foundation; Libby Liu, President of Radio Free Asia; Congressman Chris Smith (R-N.J.), Chair of House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Human Rights; Ken Starr, President of Baylor University; Bastiaan Belder, Member of the European Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs; and Bishop Efraim Tendero, Secretary General of the World Evangelical Alliance; among others.
The Asia Pacific Religious Freedom Forum aims to provide opportunities for collaboration on advancing religious freedom and related human rights between regional leaders from the Asia Pacific, United States, Europe, and throughout the world.
* China Aid and the Democratic Pacific Union DPU will co-host the Asia Pacific Religious Freedom Forum (APRFF). Sponsors and partners include Freedom House, Heritage Foundation, Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice, Taiwan Interfaith Foundation, Stefanus Alliance International, International Campaign for Tibet, Presbyterian Church in Taiwan, and Tzu Chi Foundation, Chinese Regional Bishops’ Conference, and the International Religious Freedom Roundtable, among others.
"Religion is often seen as a barrier to gender parity. Stories abound of gender-based violence done in the name of religion. As a result, in many cases, the issues of religion and gender parity are often dismissed as too complicated to address. There appears to be no way to unwind this rather complex multi-institution," say Brian Grim and Jo Anne Lyon writing for the World Economic Forum's Agenda blog.
However, they point out that a critical factor overlooked in this conversation is religious freedom. Unless there is religious freedom, minority groups, including women, will not be at the table and their vital, productive and creative voices will not be heard. Corporations and economies will suffer if they miss out on the contribution of women.
The denial of religious freedom contributes to gender inequality throughout the world. Extremist ideologies such as ISIS represent the complete loss of religious freedom, and when respect for a diversity of religious beliefs and practices disappears, gender equality suffers.
A Woman’s Work: Roles of Women in World Religions
A new infographic put together by Christian Universities Online takes a look at the roles of women in five major religions. For women, some religions allow more freedoms than others, offering women positions of power and scriptural equality with men.
A Woman’s Work: Roles of Women in World ReligionsFor women, some religions allow more freedoms than others, offering women positions of power and scriptural equality with men. Let’s take a look at the roles of women in five major religions.
According to a U.S. survey conducted by the Pew Research Center …(source 1)
Pew Research has pulled together some of the latest data on how Americans celebrate (or don't) Christmas. Follow the link below for the whole story ...
Wherever Americans stand on holiday-time debates about Starbucks cups, zombie nativity scenes and billboards encouraging people to skip church, it would be hard to disagree that Christmas is still a big part of many people’s lives this time of year.
Just in time for the holidays, here are five facts about Christmas in America and how people celebrate:
1 About nine-in-ten Americans (92%) and nearly all Christians (96%) say they celebrate Christmas, according to a 2013 Pew Research Center survey. This is no surprise, but what might be more unexpected is that a big majority (81%) of non-Christians in the U.S.
Continue reading at Pew Research ...
Pope Francis told worshippers in a mosque in the Central African Republic that “Christians and Muslims are brothers and sisters.”
He put out the case for people from both faiths to work for interreligious understanding and peace.
Pope Francis was speaking to Muslims who had sought shelter in the capital Bangui after nearly three years of violence between Christians and Muslims.
Research clearly shows that interfaith understanding and religious freedom are foundations upon which peace can be built and sustained.
This understanding is one that many Muslim scholars, activists and thinkers understand and argue for.
Follow this link to a number of resources that make this case from a Muslim perspective.
Weekly Number Blog
Statistics on religious freedom - Brian J. Grim