The horrific attacks in Paris are part of a pattern of increasing social hostilities involving religion that have plagued France. In 2006-07, Pew Research shows that religious hostilities were moderate in France. But in the most recent Pew data from 2013, hostilities were solidly in the high category (see charts).
  • The deadly attacks in Paris on Nov. 13 by gunmen and suicide bombers hit a concert hall, a major stadium, restaurants and bars, almost simultaneously - leaving at least 129 people dead and more than 300 wounded. ISIS has claimed responsibility, calling the Paris attacks ‘First of the Storm.’ 
Between 2007 and 2013, the level of social hostilities involving religion increased by 50% from 3.4 to 5.1. The increase - as shown in the data - is due to several factors including religion-related terrorist violence, violence between religious groups, attempts by some groups to prevent other religious groups from operating, religiously biased assaults and hate crimes, and harassment of women over religious dress. 

France enforces a strict form of Laicite, which seeks to keep religion out of the public sphere, including out of schools. This policy aims to keep religion from becoming a source of division or tension between people. The ISIS attack over the weekend understandably raises concerns of backlash and reprisals toward the French Muslim population, one of Europe's largest, triggering a cycle of violence that may be difficult to quell.

Religious Hostilities 2007 (France in Red)

Religious Hostilities 2013 (France in Red)

A new public opinion survey from the Barna Group reveals a significant rise in Americans’ belief that religious freedom is worse today than 10 years ago (up from 33% in 2012 to 41% today). 
The research* was conducted between August 7 and September 6, 2015. Barna Group’s 2015 research was commissioned by Alliance Defending Freedom and the study repeated the same survey questions as Barna’s 2012 study on religious freedom. 

Here are some of the study's key findings:

Concerns Over Religious Freedom Have Grown Across the Board 
Concern about religious freedom in the U.S. has grown among every segment since the 2012 study. The growth from one-third of the general population (33%) expressing concern over religious freedom in 2012 to the more than four in 10 adults today (41%) is mirrored among the generations as well. Among Millennials, there’s been a nine percentage point increase in those who say that religious freedom is worse today than it was 10 years ago (25% to 34%); the increase is even more marked among Gen-Xers (29% to 42%) and Boomers (38% to 46%).

As might be expected, religious Americans are more likely to express anxiety over the state of religious freedom in the United States than other segments. More than three-quarters (77%) of those identified as evangelicals (see definitions below) say religious liberty is worse off today than 10 years ago, compared to six in 10 (60%) in 2012. This 2015 figure is the highest among all segments by 18 percentage points.

Evangelicals are also the group with the highest amount of concern for religious freedoms becoming more restricted in the next five years at seven in 10 (68%). These high numbers are a theme across the study, as evangelicals consistently rank the highest on almost every response.

In addition to evangelicals, Barna studies a broader group of Christians they identified as practicing Christians (definitions below). Even among this broader audience, more practicing Christians in 2015 than in 2012 say religious freedoms have grown worse in the past 10 years (up from 44% in 2012 to 52% today). Additionally, practicing Christians have grown more concerned since 2012 about the future of religious freedom—nearly half of them today say they are very concerned about religious freedoms becoming more restricted in the next five years (48%, up from 42% in 2012).

There is also growing concern about religious freedom among Americans of other faiths—nearly one-third today (32%) say that religious freedom has grown worse, up from just one in five (19%) in 2012; and nearly one-quarter (23%) believe that religious freedom will grow worse in the next five years (up from 15% in 2012). Even among atheists, agnostics and the religiously unaffiliated, there is an upsurge in those who believe religious freedom has grown worse in the past 10 years (23% in 2012 to 32% in 2015).

Americans Remain Divided About the Causes and Future of Religious Freedom
Although there continues to be widespread agreement on the definition of religious freedom, with nine out of 10 adults agreeing with the statement: “True religious freedom means all citizens must have freedom of conscience,” (90% in 2012 and 87% in 2015), there remains significant division among Americans on both the cause of religious freedom woes and the path forward.

Though around half of the general population (down from 57% in 2012 to 51% in 2015) agree that “religious freedom has become more restricted in the U.S. because some groups have actively tried to move society away from traditional Christian values,” there remains significant disagreement about whether the “gay and lesbian community is the most active group trying to remove Christian values from the country.” Among the general population in 2015, only 30 percent agree, and among those who have no faith, the figure is a low 13 percent. But half of all practicing Christians (49%), and 68 percent of evangelicals say otherwise. These numbers have remained somewhat consistent between 2012 and 2015.

In addition, although almost three-quarters of Americans (72%) believe that “no one set of values should dominate the country,” the deep divisions between Christian groups and others are stark. For example, only a quarter of evangelicals (25%) agree that no one set of values should dominate the country but that figure is almost nine in 10 among those who claim no faith (89%).

The same division is true when asked whether “traditional Judeo-Christian values should be given preference in the U.S.” A quarter of the general population agrees with this statement, but the difference between them and practicing Christians is significant. For example, only one in five Millennials (21%) agree with prioritizing Judeo-Christian values, but this number almost triples among practicing Christian Millennials (55% of whom agree with the statement). This trend continues with Gen-Xers (26% among the general population compared to 51% of Gen-X practicing Christians), and Boomers (29% compared to 46%).

Younger Generations Are Growing Concerned About Religious Freedoms
Perhaps the biggest story to emerge from the research is the growth of concern over religious freedom among the younger generations. Millennial and Gen-X practicing Christians are the two generational segments showing the largest jump since 2012. Three years ago, one-third of Millennial practicing Christians (32%) and four in 10 Gen-X (40%) practicing Christians said religious freedom had worsened. Today, 55 percent of practicing Christian Millennials—a jump of more than 20 percentage points from 2012—and six in 10 practicing Christian Gen-Xers (59%) say so.

Millennial practicing Christians also express the highest level of concern about the future of religious freedom. More than half say they are concerned about it (56%), compared to just one in five in 2012 (19%). This is a significant increase in just a few years, particularly considering the fact that in 2012, the youngest generation of practicing Christians was far less concerned than older generations about religious liberty. This is no longer the case. Among practicing Christian Boomers, the percentage concerned about the future of religious freedom has remained the same since 2012 (48%).

* About the Research
The 2015 research was part of an OmniPoll(SM) survey conducted online with a representative sample of 1,000 U.S. adults 18 and older between August 7 and September 6, 2015. The research also included parallel testing using telephone surveys, including interviews conducted among respondents using cell phones, to help ensure the representativeness of the online sample. Telephone interviews were conducted from September 3 through September 6, 2015 and included 200 interviews with U.S. adults, ages 18 plus. The sampling error associated with the combined sample of 1,200 interviews is plus or minus 2.7 percentage points, at the 95% confidence level.

The 2012 research was part of an OmniPoll(SM) survey that included 1,008 telephone interviews conducted among a representative sample of adults over the age of 18 in each of the 50 United States. The sampling error for OmniPoll(SM) is plus or minus three percentage points, at the 95% confidence level. The interviews included 300 interviews conducted by cell phone, to help ensure representativeness of cell-only households.

The 2015 research was jointly commissioned by Barna Group and the Alliance Defending Freedom, based in Scottsdale, Arizona.

The 2012 research was jointly commissioned by Barna Group and Clapham Group, based in Washington, D.C.

Based upon U.S. Census data sources, regional and ethnic quotas were designed to ensure that the final group of adults interviewed reflected the distribution of adults nationwide and adequately represented the three primary ethnic groups within the U.S. (those groups which comprise at least 10% of the population: white, black and Hispanic).

“Practicing Christians” are self-identified Christians who have attended a church service in the past month and say their religious faith is very important in their life.

“Evangelicals” are self-identified Christians who have made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important in their life today and believe that when they die they will go to Heaven because they have confessed their sins and have accepted Jesus Christ as their savior. They meet seven additional belief criteria, which include saying their faith is very important in their life today; believing they have a personal responsibility to share their religious beliefs about Christ with non-Christians; believing that Satan exists; believing that eternal salvation is possible only through grace, not works; believing that Jesus Christ lived a sinless life on earth; asserting that the Bible is accurate in all that it teaches; and describing God as the all-knowing, all-powerful, perfect deity who created the universe and still rules it today. Being classified as an evangelical is not dependent upon church attendance or the denominational affiliation of the church attended. Respondents were not asked to describe themselves as “evangelical.”

“Other faith” indicates respondents who self-identify with a religion other than Christianity.

“No faith” indicates respondents who self-identify as atheist or agnostic, or who are religiously unaffiliated.

Generations: Millennials were born between 1984 and 2002; Gen-Xers between 1965 and 1983; Boomers between 1946 and 1964; and Elders in 1945 or earlier.

About Barna Group
Barna Group (which includes its research division, Barna Research Group) is a private, non-partisan, for-profit organization under the umbrella of the Issachar Companies. Located in Ventura, California, Barna Group has been conducting and analyzing primary research to understand cultural trends related to values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors since 1984. See the Barna website

Religious populations are projected to outgrow religiously unaffiliated populations worldwide by a factor of 23 between 2010 and 2050. This will result in much more religious diversity and an altered distribution of wealth, according to new study by the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation, Changing religion, changing economies.
The study provides insights into the global marketplace’s growing religious diversity by linking the best available demographic and economic data from sources including the Pew Research Center, the World Religion Database, the International Monetary Fund, the OECD, the United Nations, and various country-specific census and survey datasets.

It is important to note that the study does not aim to provide a direct causal link between religious behavior and economic practices. Instead, it seeks to connect selfidentified religious affiliation with economic environments around the world. In this way, religion and religious change is neither analyzed as a causal force leading to economic change nor is economic change analyzed as a causal force in religious change. Instead, the analysis provides a global perspective of how the relative size and economic power of religious groups occur today and how these dynamics are expected to change in the near- and long-term future.

Overview of the Findings

The report finds that the rising economic fortunes of Hindus and the rising numbers of Muslims in particular will produce a more economically and religiously diverse planet, while the relative position of Christian populations will be weakened overall.

At the same time the growth of the global religiously unaffiliated population is slowing at a much faster rate than global population growth although their economic growth is expected to track global trends in the years ahead. Although population growth among Buddhists is expected to stagnate, economic growth is also expected to be on par with global economic growth, largely due to China’s economic rise where half of all Buddhists live and two-thirds of all religiously unaffiliated people live.

Economic growth among the global Jewish population is expected to increase, but be significantly less than economic growth in the world as a whole as Jewish population growth is slowing more quickly than the world as a whole.

The number of people belonging to other religions in the world is expected to grow by about 30 million people between 2010 and 2050 but decrease as a share of the world’s population. The largest share of the world’s other religious populations lived in the Asia-Pacific region (notably China). Despite its slow population growth, economic growth among these faiths is expected to outpace global economic growth, largely due to China’s projected economic growth.

By 2050, only one of the five leading economies is projected to have a majority Christian population – the United States. The other mega economies in 2050 are projected to include, as mentioned, India (Hindu majority), as well as Indonesia (Muslim majority), and China and Japan countries with high levels of religious diversity.

Read the full report: Changing religion, changing economies.

One of the potent adversaries of religious freedom is violent extremist jihadism. New research from the Centre on Religion & Geopolitics finds a common ideology communicated through the propaganda of three leading jihadi groups. The following is synthesis taken from the report's summary.
After the 9/11 attacks, Osama Bin Laden's al-Qaeda had approximately 300 militants. ISIS alone now has, at a low estimate, 31,000 fighters across Syria and Iraq. Understanding how ideology has driven this phenomenon is essential to containing and defeating violent extremism. The jihadi ideology preys upon those who are sympathetic to some of its aims. Unless we understand how the ideology relates to wider beliefs, we cannot uproot it.

NOTE: There is a distinct difference between the ideology of Salafi-jihadism and the Islam practiced by the majority of the world's Muslims. The Salafi-jihadi ideology distorts Islamic religious principles to produce a single-minded focus on violent jihad.

Findings from the Study
The research identified five key motivational themes common in the Jihadi propaganda studied: 

(1) Group Identity, occurring in 89% of the messaging. The ummah (the global Muslim community) is by far the most dominant aspect of jihadi group identity, with almost twice as many references in the propaganda as any other identity theme, according to the study. The importance of tawhid (monotheism) is revealed in a number of themes throughout the propaganda, in different strands of the ideology: one God, one state, and one ummah. 

The importance of honour, and the solidarity of the ummah is also central. The virtue of martyrdom – common to many religions, but here applied deliberately to death in battle – forms a significant part of the value of honour, appearing explicitly in 32% of the propaganda, and implicitly in 68%.

(2) The use of Muslim Scripture or Scholarship is the second most common motivational appeal. Altogether, justifications from the Quran, Hadith or from scholarship appear in 87% of the propaganda. One ISIS statement contained 24 references to the Quran, making up 26 percent of the entire statement. Of these 24 references, 13 different surahs (chapters) were referenced.

While Quranic justifications are usually presented without context, reinforcing the accusation that the groups 'cherry pick' passages that support their case, the ideology makes extensive use of scripture: half of the propaganda references the Quran, with 63 out of the 114 surahs referenced. Hadith justifications are used much less than Quranic justifications, appearing in only 22% of the sample. The accusation that Salafi- jihadi groups pick Hadith that suit their vision may be bolstered by the ways in which they use them: authoritative Hadith are cited with the full details of their origins; the referencing of those of more doubtful provenance is much more vague.

When the groups are criticised for their actions by rival Salafi-jihadi groups or others, the Quran and the Hadith are the first reference points that are used for the rebuttal. Hadith in particular are used in bulk when groups are attacked by other followers of the ideology. Nevertheless, the vaunted Salafi rejection of much Islamic scholarship as 'innovation' (ISIS refers to established scholars as "donkeys of knowledge") is belied by references throughout the propaganda to 45 different scholars from all the major schools of jurisprudence apart from the Hanafi school.

(3) Appeals to right Conduct occur in 82% of the propaganda. This includes extolling the virtues of jihad, seeking the disgrace of enemies, and ending humiliation. 

An emphasis on the nobility of jihad runs throughout the propaganda, often presenting it in chivalric terms, with pictures of fighters on horseback, or references to Saladin. Altogether, such references to jihad appear in 71% of the propaganda.

(4) Propaganda related to Value occurred in 80% of the messages. Ideological values, which form the moral basis of the groups' actions, are present in 80% of all the propaganda sources; these include Islamic creedal values in 62%, the values of honour and solidarity with the Muslim community in 68%, and explicit references to the end of days in 42%. 

The study concluded that the three violent jihadist groups share fundamentally similar ideologies, challenging the concept that "ISIS is more extreme than al-Qaeda".

(5) And calls to accomplish certain Objectives were present in 66% of messaging. 

38% of propaganda included calls for establishing the Caliphate, including the desirability or inevitability of a universal Islamic state. 66% focused on Near or Far Enemies: These are themes that relate to the appropriate targets for jihad. And 34% had calls for the end of a perceived ‘humiliation’ of the global Muslim community.

About the Report
The report - authored by Emman El-Badawy, Milo Comerford and Peter Welby - provides an evidence base for what is already assumed by many, that the ideology of Salafi-jihadism is a vital motivating force for extremist violence, and therefore must be countered in order to curb the threat.

The ideological themes presented above appear throughout the propaganda, with a clear internal logic, although its application is often inconsistent. The themes – whether found explicitly or by implication – form a hierarchy, with the ideological values providing a basis for groups' objectives and ideal conduct, and thus their group identity. The themes come together to form a coherent ideology, representative of Salafi- jihadism.

The Centre on Religion & Geopolitics presents informed analysis on the interaction of religion and conflict globally. The Centre has analysed a cross-section of 114 propaganda sources ranging from April 2013 to summer 2015 from three Salafi-jihadi groups: ISIS, Jabhat al-Nusra, and al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Its aim is to identify precisely what ideology is shared by the three groups, as revealed in their propaganda, in order to inform effective counter-narratives from mainstream Muslims, governments and civil society.

86% of the Jewish public support freedom of religion and conscience in Israel, according to the 2015 Israel Religion and State Index.* This is the highest level of support among Jews in Israel since the annual poll began in 2009. The former high was 81% in 2010.

According to the researchers from Hiddush – Freedom of Religion for Israel, this represents a significant increase in support, particularly among the ultra-Orthodox population, up from 40% last year to 56% in this year’s Index. Further, among those who voted for the ultra-Orthodox parties, support for religious freedom has increased from 40% to 65%.

This is significant for a country, that according to an ongoing study by the Pew Research Center, has high government restrictions on religion, and a relatively high level of social hostilities involving religion (see chart at end).

The Hiddush – Freedom of Religion for Israel researchers go on to observe that the results may suggest that support for freedom of religion and conscience is a given. 

However, they say, "this is not the case, and there are concentrations of opposition. 44% of the ultra-Orthodox and 27% of the Zionist Orthodox populations are opposed to freedom of religion and conscience in Israel. 21% of Likud voters and 24% of Jewish Home voters also oppose freedom of religion and conscience. Further, 23% of those who identify as right-leaning believe that Israel should not allow freedom of religion and conscience, compared to 8% of those who identify as centrists and 2% of left-leaning Israeli Jews."

Other Findings from the Survey

The survey finds that support for the separation of religion and state remains stable at 61% as in the previous year. This represents a peak level of support, after the previous peak of 56% in 2011. 

The researchers "believe that a major reason for the lower level of support for the separation of religion and state in Israel, is the perception that such separation means separation between Judaism and the State of Israel. They may be thinking of the full separation of religion and state enforced in France and the USA, which would strip Israel of its Jewish characteristics, including such widely acceptable norms as Bible study in schools, state subsidies for religious services on par with culture and sports, and kashrut standards and Shabbat observances in public institutions." 

The survey finds that 89% of secular Jews support the separation of religion and state in Israel, as do 83% of immigrants and 64% (nearly two-thirds) of the non-Haredim. 15% of the ultra-Orthodox public support the separation of religion and state, but 85% of ultra-Orthodox Jews and 80% of Zionist Orthodox Jews oppose it. 82% of Zionist Camp voters and 84% of Yesh Atid voters expressed their support, but 57% of Likud voters and 54% of Kulanu voters are opposed to separation of religion and state. The researchers note that the "point stressed above is clearly at play when it comes to Kulanu voters, 95% of whom support freedom of religion and conscience! 96% of left-leaning voters are in support, as opposed to 68% of right-leaning voters who oppose it."

* The Israel Religion and State Index is an annual public opinion research poll conducted by the Rafi Smith Polling Institute for Hiddush – Freedom of Religion for Israel. The Index tracks public opinion of Israeli. Jews on issues of religion and state and its changes. It serves as a tool for policy makers, nongovernmental organizations, researchers, communal leaders, the media and the general public in Israel and in the Diaspora. It is based on a larger than usual sample size of 800 people representing the adult Jewish population (aged 18 and over). This year the Index included 25 questions and additional 13 background questions. The 2015 Index is based on a telephone survey conducted from July 27th to 29th 2015. The margin of error may be 3.5%.

Pew Research, Global Restrictions on Religion

"No one should be left behind because of what they believe, whether they have any faith or none," declared Member of  the British Parliament Fiona Bruce in a speech on the Sustainable Development Goals, House of Commons, 10 September 2015. Read a excerpt of her remarks below.
“Let me turn to the importance of leaving no one behind. Earlier, I read out a list of causes for which people can be left behind, whether due to gender, geography or those in minority groups such as the Dalits. This is a paradigm shift: leave no one behind regardless of their ethnicity, gender, geography, disability, race or other status. That is admirable.

However, I believe that one word and cause of inequality is missing from that group: belief. No one should be left behind because of what they believe, whether they have any faith or none. Ministers know that I have raised on a number of occasions my concern that an underlying cause of poverty is a lack of freedom of belief, freedom of thought or the freedom of speech that can follow, resulting in conflict, violence, loss of opportunities, homelessness, displacement and more. If we are determined to tackle the underlying causes of poverty, we cannot leave that behind. Fostering religious freedom should be seen as a priority not only for tackling conflict once it has happened, but to prevent it before it takes place and to promote stability.

As Brian Grim argues in his book, “The Price of Freedom Denied”, religious freedom fosters respect towards others with a different belief in the same society, therefore reducing tensions. I would go further than that, because I think it will contribute to the achievement of our SDGs. For example, goal 5 promotes the rights of girls and women. So much harassment of women is linked to religious discrimination against women—the respected report by the Pew Research Centre states that such discrimination takes place in 32% of countries. Goal 8 is about economic welfare, and employment discrimination as a result of someone being involved in a faith group is rife, as we see in countries such as Iran.

Let me give another example—sustainable development goal 16, the promotion of peace, as well as sustainable development goal 8, economic growth. In countries where freedom of belief is not respected, conflict disrupts economic activity. Foreign and local investors become reluctant to invest, jeopardising sustainable development and economic growth. As businesses corroborate, an opportunity to invest, conduct normal business practice and prevent industries from struggling is weakened. Egypt’s tourism industry, for example, has faced such challenges. By promoting and practising freedom of belief, a path to security and economic well-being can be laid.

I urge Ministers to consider this and to engage faith groups in their civil society review. Is it not time to review the Department’s faith partnership principles? Finally, would DFID consider engaging in the joint learning initiatives on faith and development instituted by some of the major international NGOs working on poverty relief, such as Tearfund, CAFOD and World Vision?”

This excerpt was provided by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for International Freedom of Religion or Belief, which exists to raise awareness and profile of international freedom of religion or belief as a human right among Parliamentarians, media, government and the general public in the UK, and to increase the effectiveness of the UK’s contribution to international institutions charged with enforcing this human right.

Picture© Brian J. Grim
As Pope Francis comes to U.S., he first visits Cuba, a country with a relatively poor record on religious freedom. But outside of Cuba, how do countries fare where Catholics are the majority population

The Economist states that the Holy See stubbornly defends religious freedom. In fact, religious freedom was formally spelled out as a Catholic doctrine when Pope Paul VI promulgated the declaration on religious freedom, Dignitatis Humanae, in 1965.*

An analysis of data from Pew Research studies finds that government restrictions on religious freedom and social hostilities involving religion are more than two times lower in countries where Catholics are the majority population than in countries where Catholics are a minority (see charts below and click here for more details on countries and regions).

Whether Catholic doctrine plays a role in this, however, is not possible to assess from the data. Indeed, the Pew Forum studies do not attempt to analyze the many factors - historical, demographic, cultural, religious, economic and political - that might explain the level of religious restrictions or hostilities in a country. The studies seek simply to measure the restrictions and hostilities that exist in a quantifiable, transparent and reproducible way, based on reports from numerous governmental and nongovernmental organizations.

* Also TEDx conference on Religious Freedom held at the Vatican.
* Catholic demographics.

Sign up for the Weekly Number Newsletter
In a new RealClearReligion article, Brian Walsh and Brian Grim assert that America's protections for religious workers' civil rights and liberties have strengthened our society and economy.
In the article, they cite social science research finding that protecting the civil rights of religious workers is good for society and good for business. For instance, a study published last year in the Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion focused on the World Economic Forum's list of indicators of a nation's global competitiveness. Of the 12 leading indicators, 10 have a strong positive correlation with respect for religious civil rights and legal protections against religion-based discrimination. On the flip side, government restrictions on religion damage the economic environment by increasing social hostility, depressing investment, and fomenting uncertainty. 

Walsh and Grim argue that Americans still have a vital vested interest in ensuring that the workplace is not only free from religion-based discrimination, but welcoming of all people regardless of their faith or belief. Respecting and protecting our workforce's religious diversity is at the heart of what made America strong -- and of what will keep it strong in the years, decades, and centuries ahead.

For the full article, which also discusses a recent supreme court case as well as the legal protections against religious discrimination in the US, click here.

Related to this, the Weekly Number's analysis of a Pew Research Center report finds that the 12 countries identified in the study as having very high religious diversity each outpaced the world's economic growth between 2008 and 2012. 

Among the 12 countries (5%) with very high religiously diversity, all are located outside of Europe and North America. Six are in Asia-Pacific (Singapore, Taiwan, Vietnam, South Korea, China and Hong Kong); five are in sub-Saharan Africa (Togo, Guinea Bissau, Ivory Coast, Benin and Mozambique); and one is in Latin America and the Caribbean (Suriname). 

Between 2008 and 2012, the world's average growth in gross domestic product (GDP) was 1.7%. By contrast, each of the 12 countries with very high religious diversity had higher average growth, and most by substantial margins. 

Average GDP growth between 2008-2012 in China, the world's 9th most religiously diverse country, averaged 9.3%. In seven of the twelve very diverse countries, average GDP growth was double or more that of the world average of 1.7%: Mozambique (7.0%), Vietnam (5.8%), Singapore (4.4%), Surinam (4.1%), Togo (4.0%), Benin (3,8%) and Taiwan (3.4%). In the remaining four very diverse countries, average GDP growth was also measurably higher than the world average: South Korea (2.9%), Ivory Coast (2.6%), Hong Kong (2.6%) and Guinea-Bissau (2.3%). 

The underlying data for the religious diversity report are based on a December 2012 Pew Research Center study of the size and distribution of eight major world religions: Buddhists, Christians, folk religions, Hindus, Jews, Muslims, other religions considered as a group and the religiously unaffiliated. Taken together, these eight major groups comprise the world’s total population.

According to Arab business leader, Fouad Makhzoumi, religious freedom is a key ingredient to peace and stability, as measured by the absence of violent religious persecution and conflict. This is particularly important for business because where stability exists, there are more opportunities to invest and to conduct normal and predictable business operations, especially in emerging and new markets. Read the full text.
Fouad Makhzoumi is a leading industrialist, philanthropist and statesman. In 1997, Mr. Makhzoumi founded the Makhzoumi Foundation, a private Lebanese non-profit organization that contributes through its vocational training, health care and micro-credit programs to Lebanese civil society development.

Follow this link to Mr. Makhzoumi’s prepared comments for a 21st August 2015 address to the Rimini Meeting, a gathering attracting up to 500,000 people from across Italy and the world each summer.

This is part of the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation’s new Leaders Speak series of talks and articles where business, religious and civic leaders speak out on countering violent extremism and increasing interfaith understanding and peace. For more on the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation’s own work on countering radicalization, see the Empowerment+ Initiative

Poverty, some argue, can only be effectively tackled by governments enforcing top-down, big-P Poverty reduction policies and programs. But a host of religious groups haven’t gotten the memo. Innovative faith-based initiatives worldwide are tackling poverty using bottom-up, small-p poverty alleviation approaches that empower individuals to be resourceful, resilient and self-reliant.
Indeed, a central aspect of religious freedom is that it gives faith groups license to innovate and contribute to the the wellbeing of individuals, communities and nations. But where religious freedom is curtailed, so are such innovations. For instance, reform-minded Saudi princess Basmah bint Saud argues, religion “should not be a shield behind which we hide from the world but a driving force that inspires us to innovate and contribute to our surroundings.”

In this new installment of an ongoing series on the connection between religious freedom and sustainable development, Brian Grim describes these small-p initiatives and concludes with a case study of how one faith group is directly targeting and reducing poverty in its congregations worldwide. Such faith-based activities directly contribute to Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 1 – Ending poverty in all its forms everywhere.

Read the full analysis and case study here.