Entrepreneurs are nearly 50% more likely to pray several times a day than non-entrepreneurs, according to a study
by Baylor University. The study was supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation* to look at the social and religious characteristics of contemporary American entrepreneurs.
The Baylor University researchers (Jerry Z. Park, Mitchell J. Neubert and Kevin D. Dougherty) found that while American entrepreneurs are similar to non-entrepreneurs in terms of belief in God, religious affiliation, frequency of certain religious activities, a higher percentage of entrepreneurs pray at least several times a day (34%) than non- entrepreneurs (23%).
Other key findings from the research at Baylor include:
* NSF Innovation and Organizational Sciences Program: National Study of Entrepreneurial Behavior, Regulatory Focus, and Religion (SES-0925907). Study: "The Values and Beliefs of the American Public," Wave III Baylor Religion Survey, September 2011. For more, see: A Religious Profile of American Entrepreneurs, by Kevin D. Dougherty, Jenna Griebel, Mitchell J. Neubert and Jerry Z. Park.
- American entrepreneurs tend to be male (57%) and married (69%).
- American entrepreneurs are generally more educated than non-entrepreneurs. Nearly three-fourths (73%) of American adults who have started a business or who are in the process of starting a business have attended college.
- American entrepreneurs describe themselves as more politically conservative than non-entrepreneurs. In terms of political parties, 40% of entrepreneurs identify as Republican, 30% as Independent, and 30% as Democrat.
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Attackers dressed in black killed more than two dozen people and injured up to 100 at a train station in south China over the weekend. Religious hostilities in China have increased by fourfold in recent years, and this new horrific terrorist attack represents a further escalation. News reports
citing Chinese authorities blame Uyghur extremists from the western region of Xinjiang for the attack.
In a recent Religious News Service interview
, Brian J. Grim, president of the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation, also notes that China's futures in religious freedom and harmony are also tied to their economic fortunes.
According to data from the ongoing Pew Research global restrictions study
, social hostilities involving religion in China increased fourfold between 2007 and 2012 (see chart at left).
This weekend's attack at the train station in Kunming, one of China's largest terminals, is the largest attack outside of Xinjiang. The predominantly Muslim Uyghurs used to be the majority population in the far northwest Xinjiang region of China, but due to immigration from other parts of China, they now represent less that 50% of the region's population.
Separatists have mounted a series of attacks even as security restrictions in the region have tightened. In response to the separatist movement, the Chinese government has also tightened restrictions on religion in the region.
In fact, data from the same Pew Research study finds that overall restrictions on religion in China, which were already very high, have also increased during the same time period.
Chinese authorities argue that such restrictions on religion are needed to maintain security, promote social harmony and keep religious hostilities in check. However, the data suggest that rather than reducing religious hostilities, added restrictions on religion may add to the grievances.
The Religious Violence Cycle
Social science research has identified this as a religious violence cycle. For instance, Brian J. Grim and Roger Finke in The Price of Freedom Denied
show that, contrary to popular opinion, ensuring religious freedom for all reduces religious violence and conflict. While it may be that some restrictions on religion are necessary to maintain order or preserve a peaceful religious homogeneity, the research shows that restricting religious freedoms is associated with higher levels of violence, not less.
Answering this question is particularly important in China because it has the largest religious population of any country besides India, according to Pew Research demographic studies
.The Yin & Yang of Religious Freedom in China
In a recent Religious News Service interview
, Brian J. Grim, president of the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation
, also noted that while China may have some of the highest restrictions on religion in the world, there have nonetheless been great strides in the past 50 years.
Grim noted that during the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s and 1970s, all religions were suppressed. People who identified with a religion were subject to beatings, relocation and even execution. "You’d have been hard pressed to find anyone willing to admit they were religious in that time," Grim said.
But today, almost one-in-two people in China follow a faith. 300 million Chinese are affiliated with folk religions. Globally this means that more than seven-in-ten (73%) of the world’s folk religionists live in China.
China not only leads the world in the number of folk religionists, but also in the number of Buddhists. Some 244 million people in China adhere to Buddhism, making China home to half (50%) of the world’s 488 million Buddhists.
Moreover, China's 68 million Christians make China home to the world’s seventh-largest Christian population. China's approximately 25 million Muslims constitute the world's 17th largest Muslim population, right after Saudi Arabia (# 16) and before Yemen (#18).
And China has the world's second largest shares of people who belong to faiths in the “other religion” category (16%), many of whom are adherents of Taoism. The World Religion Database estimates there are more than 8 million Taoists worldwide.
China’s economic success would not have been possible had the country kept religion and other forms of identity completely suppressed. Grim said, "I’m not making the argument that religious freedom was what launched the country’s economic success, but if draconian restrictions on religion and other things had not been lifted, the level of success we see today would not have been attained."
Indeed, solving China's religious hostilities problem not only will pay dividends for social harmony, but also in helping to consolidate and mature the economic advances of the past decades.
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. And for more on the connection between religious restrictions and hostilities, see Brian Grim's TEDx Talk
Religious hostilities are very high and rising in Israel and the Palestinian territories, reaching six-year highs. According to a 2014 Pew Research study
, these social hostilities involving religion include mob or sectarian violence, religion-related terrorism or conflict, organized attempts to dominate public life with a particular perspective on religion, harassment over attire for religious reasons, and other religion-related intimidation or abuse.
Such social hostilities involving religion are not necessarily a direct reflection on the policies of the Israeli government or the Palestinian Authority. However, in a dramatic move, as Israel's GDP growth declined again
in 2013, prominent business leaders in Israel recently launched a media blitz arguing that peace is good for business and business is good for peace.
Businesses Are Concerned
The business leaders involved in the media blitz are part of a group Israelis and Palestinians in the Breaking the Impasse (BTI) movement that favors advancing a diplomatic solution. Those involved reportedly
include Mellanox cofounder Eyal Waldman, high-tech entrepreneur Yossi Vardi and Osem International/Nestle Israel CEO Gad Propper.
The group reportedly
hired a PR firm to mount a 10-day media and billboard campaign at a cost of 1 million shekels ($286,000). The campaign calls on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to sign a peace agreement with the Palestinians.
The economic argument associated with the BTI movement has surfaced at other venues, including at a May 2013 World Economic Forum event
in Jordan, heartily supported
by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry as well as former U.K. Prime Minister and Quartet Representative Tony Blair
The plan seeks to improve the economic situation for Palestinians, thereby removing economic sources of tension and winning greater buy-in for a peaceful and sustainable future.
Detractors of the plan criticize
it for failing to deal with underlying social, security, political and sovereignty issues.
Indeed, research highlighted by the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation
shows that underlying issues, such as restrictions on religious freedom, are important contextual elements that must be addressed in order for religious hostilities, violence and conflict to be reduced. When they are, this leads to greater stability, promotes innovation and fosters peace, all of which contribute to a better business environment.Innovative Business Projects
Some micro-economic initiatives, however, are developing projects that aim to remove the mistrust that has developed in the region. For instance, the Abraham's Path Initiative
is promoting a long-distance walking trail across the Middle East that would stimulate economic and cultural cooperation where it is currently in short supply.
Similar initiatives by Friends of the Earth Middle East (FoEME
) bring together Jordanian, Palestinian and Israeli environmentalists promoting cooperative efforts to protect their shared environmental heritage. In so doing, they seek to advance both sustainable regional development and the creation of necessary conditions for lasting peace in the region.
Another micro-economic initiative was developed by Aziz Abu Sarah, Co-Executive Director at George Mason University's Center for World Religions, Diplomacy, and Conflict Resolution
. In 2009, he co-founded Middle East Justice and Development Initiative (MEJDI Tours
) to use as a bridge between conflict resolution and business. For his work, he won the Intercultural Innovation award from the UN Alliance of Civilizations and was also named a National Geographic Explorer in 2011.
Sign up for the Weekly Number Newsletter
to keep up with the latest data on religious freedom, and watch my TEDx Talk
for a global overview of restrictions on religious freedom today.
The number of countries with high religious hostilities has increased by 65% since 2007, rising from 20% of countries in 2007 to 33% in 2012. The chart below shows the details.
A rising tide of religious hostilities has swept the globe during the first decade-and-a-half the 21st century. The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, leading to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, made clear that even the actions of a few people motivated by religious extremism can trigger wars and major economic disruptions for countries involved. Beyond such attacks and wars, data show that today 74% of people live with high levels of religious hostilities, violence or conflict, which is markedly higher than just a half a decade ago when 45% of people lived with such levels (Pew Research Center 2014
A brief summary of recent trends monitored by the Pew Research study shows why political scientist Tom Farr refers to this as a “global crisis.”
- The number of countries with high religious hostilities has increased by 65% since 2007, rising from 20% of countries in 2007 to 33% in 2012
- Crimes, malicious acts or violence motivated by religious hatred or bias were documented in 76% of countries in 2012, up from 66% in 2007
- Individuals or groups used violence or the threat of violence, including so-called honor killings, to try to enforce religious norms in 39% of countries in 2012, more than double the share in 2007 (18%)
- Women faced social harassment for violating religious dress codes in 32% of countries in 2012, more than a fourfold increase since 2007 (7%)
- The extent of mob violence related to religion more than doubled in less than a decade, increasing from one-in-ten countries (11%) in 2006 to one-in-four (25%) in 2012
- Acts of sectarian or communal violence also more than doubled, occurring in fewer than one-in-ten countries (8%) in 2007, and rising to more than one-in-six (18%) in 2012
- Religion-related terrorist groups were active in 37% of countries as of 2012, up from 30% in 2007
- Religion-related wars affected 15% of countries in 2012, up from 11% in 2007
Among the 25 most populous countries, only six have low government restrictions on religion (average between 2006-2012), with Brazil having the lowest of all (see chart). Brazil has lower restrictions, in fact, than the United States
, where restrictions have been rising.
Religious freedom, however, is highly valued in Brazil. For instance, when Brazilians were asked in a 2006 Pew Research survey
whether it was important to live in a country where there is freedom of religion for religions other than their own, nearly the same percentage of people indicated that this was important (95%) as indicated that it was important to live in a country where they can practice their own religion freely (96%).
An expression of such support for religious freedom occurred this spring when the government of São Paulo - Brazil's commercial center and the western hemisphere's most populous city at 20 million - declared that henceforth May 25th will be "religious freedom day." This declaration coincided with a multi-faith religious freedom festival
that drew nearly 30,000 participants
, including the participation of the Catholic archdiocese, leading politicians and celebrities.
Low religious restrictions and support for religious freedom are notable in a country that is undergoing what is perhaps one of the most dynamic religious shifts in the world today. Religious Shifts
Since the Portuguese colonized Brazil in the 16th century, it has been overwhelmingly Catholic. And today Brazil has more Roman Catholics than any other country in the world – an estimated 123 million. But a recent Pew Research analysis
finds that the share of Brazil’s overall population that identifies as Catholic has been dropping steadily in recent decades, while the percentage of Brazilians who belong to Protestant churches has been rising. Indeed, much of the religious shift has been from Roman Catholicism to Pentecostal and Protestant denominations. For a historical overview of Pentecostalism in Brazil, see the Pew Research report Spirit and Power
. Smaller but increasing shares of Brazilians also identify with other religions or with no religion at all.
The Pew Research analysis notes that from 2000 to 2010, both the absolute number and the percentage of Catholics declined; Brazil’s Catholic population fell slightly from 125 million in 2000 to 123 million a decade later, dropping from 74% to 65% of the country’s total population. The number of Brazilian Protestants (including Pentecostals), on the other hand, continued to grow in the most recent decade, rising from 26 million (15%) in 2000 to 42 million (22%) in 2010.
In addition, the number of Brazilians belonging to other religions – including Afro-Brazilian faiths such as Candomblé and Umbanda – has been climbing. In 2000, adherents of religions other than Catholicism and Protestantism numbered about 6 million (4% of Brazil’s population), and as of 2010, the group had grown to 10 million (5%). Finally, the number of Brazilians with no religious affiliation, including agnostics and atheists, numbered 12 million (7%) in 2000 and 15 million (8%) according to Brazil’s 2010 census.
Given the level of religious switching in Brazil, it is particularly notable that a separate Pew Research study
finds that there have been no reported incidents of hostility over conversions or proselytism. A History of Religious Deregulation
Brazil was not always known for religious tolerance.
For instance, the persecution of Brazilian Jews in the 1600s sent the first group of Jews to New York in 1654
. But writing in 1923, University of Texas legal expert Herman G. James
noted that “It is safe to say that there is no other country in the world where the Roman Catholic faith is the traditional and prevailing faith of the inhabitants, where there is a more complete separation of Church and State, or where there is greater freedom of conscience and worship.”
As the twentieth century progressed, however, laws were passed making proselytizing more difficult for new religious groups and, in the 1940s, the government stopped issuing visas for Protestant missionaries. These limits were short lived. After a period of military rule that ended in 1985, politically active Protestant denominations and minority religions worked to ensure that religious freedom became a defining characteristic of church-state relations. For more details, see The Price of Freedom Denied: Religious Persecution and Conflict in the 21st Century
Brazil is among the 76% of countries
recently identified in a recent Pew Research study
with initiatives to lower religious restrictions and hostilities. For instance, on January 15, 2012, President Dilma Rousseff
approved an agreement to include the Holocaust, anti-Semitism, and other Jewish-related subjects, as well as racism, xenophobia, and intolerance, in the curricula of some schools, universities and other educational institutions.
The typical government response to religious hostilities is to tighten restrictions on religion. But, contrary to common perceptions, a solid body of empirical and historical research shows that piling on additional restrictions does not ensure peace and stability, but rather can fuel additional grievances. Indeed, research
shows that the price of denying religious freedoms is far higher than protecting them.
Specifically, as social hostilities involving religion rise, government restrictions on religion rise, leading to more violence, setting up a religious violence cycle that become difficult to break, with direct adverse effects on business, foreign investment and world economies. Two examples help demonstrate how religious restrictions and hostilities are bad for business: (1) Blasphemy Laws.
Pakistan’s speech-restricting blasphemy laws often sow discord rather than the purported aim of promoting peace, as two high ranking government officials were recently assassinated for merely questioning the laws. These laws also have a direct negative impact on businesses. There are “recorded instances of business or personal rivals accusing each other of blasphemy to extract revenge for a past grievance. The blasphemy laws in Pakistan have not only been used in cases where individuals have been accused of specific blasphemies, they have also been used to ban websites like Facebook, YouTube, and Wikipedia because of content that would be considered sacrilegious” (Tarin and Uddin 2013, p. 19
). (2) Egypt: Religious Violence Cycle & the Economy.
The religious violence cycle is playing out today in Egypt in the back-and-forth social and political struggle between the supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood and the coalition opposing them. Of course, this struggle directly impacts the important tourist industry
, but it also drives away foreign investment
. And this has adverse effects on foreign economies
To end the cycle of religious violence and its negative impact, observers of post-Mubarak Egypt concluded that all factions in society – including Islamists – must feel that their voices are heard and that “special attention should be paid to the economy …” (Shaikh and Ghanem 2013, p. 2
Also, as the role of women is debated within Islam and between Muslims in Egypt and countries ranging from Morocco and Iraq to Pakistan and Indonesia, religious restrictions on women also impact economic outcomes as the future health of economies is related to the economic opportunities afforded women
. Furthermore, not only do religious restrictions have adverse effects on the economy, but a poor economy can reinforce religious intolerance
, adding to the religious violence cycle. And perhaps most telling, as Egypt’s religion-related tensions have grown, Egypt’s young entrepreneurs
desire to move outside the country rather put their hopes in their home.
Members of religious groups were harassed in more countries in 2012 than in any of the previous five years, according to a new Pew Research study
. Harassment occurred in 166 countries, up from the previous high of 160 countries in 2010 and 2011.
Two of the seven major religious groups monitored by the study – Muslims and Jews – experienced six-year highs in the number of countries in which they were harassed by national, provincial or local governments, or by individuals or groups in society. As in previous years, the study
finds that Christians and Muslims – who together make up more than half of the global population – were harassed in the largest number of countries (110 and 109, respectively).
Harassment and intimidation by governments or social groups take many forms, including physical assaults; arrests and detentions; desecration of holy sites; and discrimination against religious groups in employment, education and housing. Harassment and intimidation also include things such as verbal assaults on members of one religious group by other groups or individuals.
Harassment or intimidation of specific religious groups occurred in 166 countries in 2012, a six-year high. In 2012, government or social harassment of Muslims was reported in 109 countries; the previous high was 101 countries in the previous year of the study
. Jews were harassed in 71 countries in 2012, slightly higher than the year before (69 countries, which was the previous high). Harassment of Christians continued to be reported in the largest number of countries (110), an increase from the previous year (105) but not a six-year high. There also was an increase in the number of countries in which Hindus, Buddhists and members of folk or traditional religions were harassed.
Overall, across the six years of this study
, religious groups were harassed in a total of 185 countries at one time or another. Members of the world’s two largest religious groups – Christians and Muslims, who together comprise more than half of the global population – were harassed in the largest number of countries, 151 and 135, respectively. Jews, who comprise less than 1% of the world’s population, experienced harassment in a total of 95 countries, while members of other world faiths were harassed in a total of 77 countries.
In 2012, some religious groups were more likely to be harassed by governments, while others were more likely to be harassed by individuals or groups in society. Jews, for instance, experienced social harassment in many more countries (66) than they faced government harassment (28). By contrast, members of other world faiths, such as Sikhs and Baha’is, were harassed by some level of government in more countries (35) than they were by groups or individuals in society (21).
Of the six rising religious hostilities impacting the world today, harassment of women over religious dress increased more than fourfold
between 2007 and 2012, according to a new Pew Research study
The other five types of social hostilities involving religion each increased twofold during the same time period. These include: abuse of religious minorities, violent enforcement of religious norms, mob violence related to religion, religion-related terrorist violence, and sectarian conflict.
1. Harassment of Women Over Religious Dress
The new Pew Research Center study finds that harassment of women over religious dress occurred in nearly a third of countries in 2012 (32%), up from a quarter in 2011 (25%) and less than one-in-ten (7%) as of mid-2007.
In China, for instance, a Han Chinese man accosted a Uighur Muslim girl in Henan province and lifted her veil in November 2012. In response, violent protests broke out as hundreds of Uighurs demonstrated against the incident. And in Moldova, two men attacked a Muslim woman in the capital city of Chisinau, calling her a “terrorist” and tearing her headscarf.
A recent increase in school bullying in the New York City
school is reported to include students pulling off Muslim headscarves. And recently in Niagara, NY
, several 16-year-old girls are facing charges for assaulting a 17-year-old Muslim girl wearing as headscarf leaving a mosque.
Sometimes such harassment coincides
with legislative attempts to limit religious dress. In Quebec, Canada
, the Parti Quebecois government proposed a ban on religious clothing for public employees including at schools, hospitals and courthouses. The "Charter of Values,” if adopted, would prohibit public servants from wearing hijabs, kippas, turbans or large crucifixes. The proposal has reportedly
triggered aggression against Muslim women wearing such headscarves.
2. Abuse of Religious Minorities
The notable increase in social hostilities
involving religion documented by Pew Research is attributable to a variety of factors, including widespread abuse of religious minorities for acts perceived as offensive or threatening to the majority faith. Incidents of abuse targeting religious minorities were reported in 47% of countries in 2012, up from 38% in 2011 and 24% in the baseline year of the study. In Libya
, for instance, two worshippers were killed in an attack on a Coptic Orthodox church in the city of Misrata in December 2012. This was the “first attack [in Libya] specifically targeting a church since the 2011 revolution,” according to the U.S. Department of State.
In some countries, violence toward religious minorities intensified from the levels reported in previous years. In Buddhist-majority Sri Lanka, for example, monks attacked Muslim and Christian places of worship, including reportedly attacking a mosque in the town of Dambulla in April 2012 and forcibly occupying a Seventh-day Adventist church in the town of Deniyaya and converting it into a Buddhist temple in August 2012. And in Muslim-majority Egypt, attacks on Coptic Orthodox Christian churches and Christian-owned businesses were on the rise well before the acceleration in attacks that took place following the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in July 2013 (which falls outside the date range studied in this analysis). For instance, in August 2012, in the village of Dahshur, a dispute between a Christian and a Muslim led to one death and more than a dozen injuries. Several Christian homes and businesses were destroyed and nearly all Christian families fled the village.
3. Violent Enforcement of Religious Norms
The Pew Research study finds that the 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. In Vietnam
, for instance, the managing council of the government-recognized Cao Dai religion, a syncretistic religious movement that originated in Vietnam in the 20th century, orchestrated an assault on followers of an unsanctioned Cao Dai group in September 2012, injuring six. The head of the Cao Dai managing council said the reason for the assault was that the followers of the unsanctioned group were not worshipping according to the dictates of the council.
In addition to new instances of violence, efforts to enforce religious norms intensified in other countries. In India
, members of a Hindu nationalist organization, Hindu Jagarana Vedike, enforced a morality code, including an attack on young men and women for allegedly drinking and dancing at a birthday party in the state of Karnataka in July.
And in parts of Somalia
under the control of the Islamic militant group al-Shabab, the group continued to ban cinemas, music, smoking, shaving beards and other behavior it views as “un-Islamic.” The group reportedly beheaded a 24-year-old man in Barawa in November 2012 after accusing him of converting to Christianity.
4. Mob Violence
Mob violence related to religion occurred in a quarter of countries in 2012 (25%), up from 18% in 2011 and 12% as of mid-2007, according to the study. In May 2012, for instance, a Muslim mob in Kenya
attacked and killed two pastors who were visiting a Christian who had converted from Islam.
Mob violence also escalated in Indonesia
, as Muslim groups targeted houses of worship, religious schools and homes of other Muslims they deemed “unorthodox,” according to the U.S. Department of State. In August 2012, for instance, some 500 Sunni hard-liners attacked a Shia community in the city of Sampang, killing two people, burning dozens of homes and displacing hundreds of people.
And in Nigeria
, hundreds of Muslim youths attacked and burned Christian businesses and places of worship in November 2012 after a Christian was accused of blasphemy. Four Christians were killed.
5. Religion-related Terror
Religion-related terrorist violence occurred in about a fifth of countries in 2012 (20%), roughly the same share as in 2011 (19%) but up markedly from 2007 (9%), the study's baseline year.
Incidents include the March 2012 killing of a rabbi and three Jewish children by an Islamist extremist at a Jewish school in Toulouse, France.
In the United States, an August 2012 shooting at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin left six worshippers dead and three others wounded.
In some countries where there had previously been religion-related terrorist attacks, these attacks escalated. The widely covered 2013 al-Shabab attack on a Nairobi mall (which falls outside the date range studied in this analysis), for instance, was part of a steady increase in religion-related terrorism in Kenya. In July and November 2012, militants attacked churches near the Kenya-Somalia border with grenades and gunfire, leaving more than a dozen dead and more than 50 wounded.
6. Sectarian Conflict
The new study finds that the share of countries experiencing sectarian violence rose last year, continuing a trend noted in the previous report in this Pew Research series. Sectarian violence was reported in nearly one-fifth of the world’s countries in 2012 (18%), up from 15% in 2011 and 8% as of mid-2007.
, for example, sectarian tensions escalated into violence in October 2012 when Tibetan Buddhist monks led an attack against Hui Muslims at a site where a new mosque was being built in Gansu province.
Ongoing sectarian violence also continued unabated in some countries in 2012. In Burma (Myanmar
), for instance, communal violence between Rohingya Muslims and Rakhine Buddhists has resulted in hundreds of deaths and displaced more than 100,000 people from their homes.
, the ongoing civil war has fallen partly along sectarian lines, leaving tens of thousands dead and displacing millions in recent years.
And in Iraq
, sectarian strife between Sunni and Shia Muslims continued, and attacks of some kind continued to occur on an almost daily basis.
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to stay up to date with analyses of data on religious restrictions.
- For more resources, also see my TEDx Talk given at the Vatican.
While nearly all country constitutions around the world make some promise of religious freedom, more than half have stipulations that appear to contradict that promise.
Nearly all of the 198 countries included in a 2011 Pew Research study
either call for freedom of religion in their constitutions or basic laws (143 countries) or protect at least some religious practices (an additional 48 countries). But not all governments fully respect the religious rights written into their laws. More than half of the countries (111, or 56%) include stipulations in their constitution or basic laws that appear to substantially contradict the concept of religious freedom. Afghanistan’s Constitution, for instance, appears to protect its citizens’ right to choose and practice a religion other than Islam. However, the constitution also stipulates that “no law can be contrary to the sacred religion of Islam” and instructs judges to rule according to sharia law if no specific Afghan law applies to a case.
Seven countries – Algeria, Eritrea, Libya, Maldives, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia and Yemen – do not include any provisions for religious freedom in their constitutions or basic laws. The Algerian Constitution, for example, establishes Islam as the state religion and forbids practices that are contrary to Islamic ethics.
There appears to be at least some relationship between constitutional protections for religious freedom and overall changes in government restrictions on religion. Among the countries with the least robust constitutional protections for religious freedom – that is, countries whose constitutions contain one or more substantial contradictions concerning religious freedom or provide no protection for it at all – index scores increased in 11 and decreased in only two (more than a five-fold difference). In contrast, among the countries whose constitutions provide for religious freedom without substantial contradictions (including those with limited qualifications), index scores increased in three countries and decreased in six (a two-fold difference).
More specifically, among the countries whose constitutions or basic laws do not provide for religious freedom, government restrictions on religion substantially increased in three (Algeria, Libya and Yemen) and did not decrease in any. In the 111 countries that provide for religious freedom but have substantial contradictions in their constitutions or basic laws (such as limiting religious freedom in order to protect “public morals” or making the nation’s laws conform to one particular religion), government restrictions substantially increased in eight countries (Somalia, Syria, France, Malaysia, Egypt, Qatar, Hong Kong and Serbia) and substantially decreased in two countries (Greece and Nauru).
However, the pattern is reversed among the 41 countries whose constitutions or basic laws provide for religious freedom without qualification or contradiction. Among these countries, government restrictions decreased in three countries (Timor-Leste, Equatorial Guinea and the Republic of Macedonia) and increased in one (Kyrgyzstan). This pattern is also seen, though more faintly, among the 39 countries whose constitutions or basic laws provide for religious freedom but include limited qualifications, such as the right to limit religious freedom to protect “public order.” Restrictions decreased in three of these countries (Togo, Guinea Bissau and Nicaragua) and increased in two of them (Uganda and Tajikistan). (The level of government restrictions stayed roughly the same in the vast majority of cases.)
74% of people – more than 5 billion – live in countries where high levels of religious hostilities limit religious freedom. By contrast, 64% of people live in countries with high government restrictions on religious freedom.
The share of countries with a high or very high level of social hostilities involving religion reached a six-year peak in 2012, according to a new study by the Pew Research Center
A third (33%) of the 198 countries and territories included in the study had high religious hostilities in 2012, up from 29% in 2011 and 20% as of mid-2007. Religious hostilities increased in every major region of the world except the Americas.
The sharpest increase was in the Middle East and North Africa, which still is feeling the effects of the 2010-11 political uprisings known as the Arab Spring. There also was a significant increase in religious hostilities in the Asia-Pacific region, where China edged into the “high” category for the first time.
The new report – released two days ahead of Religious Freedom Day
in the United States – is the fifth in a series of Pew Research reports
based on two indexes used to gauge the extent to which governments and societies around the world impinge on religious beliefs and practices.
The share of countries with a high or very high level of government restrictions on religion stayed roughly the same in the latest year studied. About three-in-ten countries in the world (29%) had a high or very high level of government restrictions in 2012, compared with 28% in 2011 and 20% as of mid-2007.
Europe had the biggest increase in the median level of government restrictions in 2012, followed closely by the Middle East-North Africa – the only other region where the median level of government restrictions on religion rose.
Looking at the overall level of restrictions – whether resulting from government policies or from social hostilities – the study finds that restrictions on religion are high or very high in 43% of countries, also a six-year high. Because some of these countries (like China) are very populous, more than 5.3 billion people (76% of the world’s population) live in countries with a high or very high level of restrictions on religion, up from 74% in 2011 and 68% as of mid-2007.
Please join me at the UN on Thursday, Jan. 16, 1:15 PM
, where I will discuss this new Pew Research on restrictions on religion report.
- Also, sign up for the Weekly Number Newsletter to stay up to date with analyses of data on religious restrictions.
- For more resources, also see my TEDx Talk given at the Vatican.
Among the world’s 25 most populous countries, Egypt, Indonesia, Russia, Pakistan and Burma (Myanmar) had the most restrictions on religion in 2012, when both government restrictions and social hostilities are taken into account. As in the previous year, Pakistan had the highest level of social hostilities involving religion, and Egypt had the highest level of government restrictions on religion. Social hostilities related to religion in Burma (Myanmar) rose to the “very high” level for the first time in the study.
During the latest year studied, there also was an increase in the level of harassment or intimidation of particular religious groups. Indeed, two of the seven major religious groups monitored by the study – Muslims and Jews – experienced six-year highs in the number of countries in which they were harassed by national, provincial or local governments, or by individuals or groups in society. As in previous years, Christians and Muslims – who together make up more than half of the global population – were harassed in the largest number of countries (110 and 109, respectively).
The new study scores 198 countries and territories on the same 10-point indexes used in the previous Pew Research studies on religious restrictions around the globe:
- The Government Restrictions Index (GRI) measures government laws, policies and actions that restrict religious beliefs and practices. The GRI is comprised 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 intimation or abuse. The SHI includes 13 measures of social hostilities.
The full report
, “Religious Hostilities Reach Six-Year High,” is available on the website
of the Pew Research Center’s Religion & Public Life Project, as are the previous reports in the series
The Pew Research Center’s work on global restrictions on religion is part of the Pew-Templeton Global Religious Futures project
, which analyzes religious change and its impact on societies around the world. The initiative is funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts and the John Templeton Foundation.