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