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August 9th, 2011
02:09 PM ET

Report: Religious freedom declining for nearly 2.2 billion people

By Moni Basu, CNN

Nearly a third of the world's people live in nations where practicing religion freely is becoming increasingly difficult, according to a new study released Tuesday.

The Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion and Public Life said government restrictions and religiously motivated hostility rose significantly between mid-2006 and mid-2009, when the research was conducted.

Only 1% of the world's population lives in countries where the trend was the opposite.

"The increasing levels of social hostilities is a definite trend that needs to be watched carefully," said Brian Grim, the primary researcher for the study.

Grim said the Pew Center's report on 198 countries found those that were already restrictive or abusive in the previous report continued their decline. Those that were tolerant became more so. The study found that 101 governments used force against religious groups or individuals.

He said Christians and Muslims, who make up more than half of the world's population, were harassed in the most number of countries, though that did not reflect the intensity of the persecution.

The Middle East and North Africa had the largest proportion of nations where curbs on religion went up, the study found. Nearly a third of those nations imposed greater restrictions. It was particularly bad in Egypt, the study said.

The research was done before the so-called Arab Spring. Many of the nations with increasing religious restrictions have seen popular uprisings and subsequent crackdowns - among them Egypt, Yemen, Syria and Libya.

Grim said Pew will be conducting another study to reflect the effects of recent events.

It was noteworthy, he said, that Muslims faced the highest persecution in Islam-dominated Middle East and North Africa. Much of it was because of a majority branch persecuting a minority branch. Or in the case of Egypt, it was the government targeting the Muslim Brotherhood, Grim said.

Among the world's top 25 populous nations, which account for 75% of the global population, curbs on religion went up in eight countries and did not go down in any. In China, Nigeria, Russia, Thailand, the United Kingdom and Vietnam, the increases were primarily due to rising social hostilities. In Egypt and France, the increases were mainly because of government restrictions.

The United States enjoys high levels of religious freedom, Grim said, but 1,300 religiously motivated hate crimes were reported to the FBI during the period of the study.

The Pew Center report was compiled from a variety of sources, including the United Nations, the U.S. State Department and Human Rights Watch. The private Washington-based center does not take positions on any of the issues it covers or on policy debates.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Religious liberty

soundoff (147 Responses)
  1. Muneef

    Jayalalitha, who goes by one name, demanded an apology from Chao in a letter to the US Consulate's Consul General Jennifer McIntyre.

    "This remark which smacks of racism is highly condemnable. You will agree that this remark of the vice-consul is an affront to all Tamils," Jayalalitha said.

    The Communist Party of India demanded the withdrawal of Chao for her "racist" comments and asked the government to lodge a "strong protest" with the United States.

    "The remarks show the racist nature of the official even during Barack Obama's presidency. This cannot be tolerated," party national secretary D. Raja said.
    http://www.emirates247.com/news/world/us-diplomat-s-dirty-like-tamilians-comment-sparks-indian-racism-row-2011-08-14-1.413002

    August 14, 2011 at 1:53 am |
  2. Muneef

    YOUR RELIGION IS NOT IMPORTANT
    A brief dialogue between a Brazilian theologist
    Leonardo Boff
    and the Dalai Lama.
    “Remember, the universe is the echo of our actions and our  thoughts.”
    http://www.slideshare.net/ohteikbin/the-best-religion

    August 12, 2011 at 6:02 pm |
  3. Fee

    Free

    Not anything sweet are true. Perhaps, he/she meant to say that atheists are having bees in their bonnets when it comes to Christianity.

    You want logic? here's one for you.

    I don't care in anything that I don't believe; and

    I don't believe that Barney is gay, thus, I could care less about it.

    How about you atheists, why you seem care so much about Christianity?

    August 12, 2011 at 4:19 am |
    • rob

      Because christians kill in the name of their religion as well as make political policy based off of their religion. This affects my atheist life.

      August 12, 2011 at 12:31 pm |
    • V01D

      Did you ever wonder why they put God on money? It's so most simpletons would equate the two on at least a subconscious level. Your religion is all fine and well at the local bake sale to pay for some renovations at the church, but what you need to understand is that for a lot of influential forces religion is a tool of social control. It's a fence for your thoughts. If Bush didn't act under the guise that he and your God were on the same side, do you honestly think that he would have had as much support as he did for the wars he started? If he didn't slowly build a campaign (that continues to smolder today) that those of a rival religious faith like Islam are unilaterally dangerous, do you think we would live in such a religiously polarized world that we do today?

      The religious climate is volatile. It is so because that volatility instills two things: fear and loyalty. And these are two of the most invaluable traits of a society that the powerful and influential could ever ask for.

      That's why atheists care so much about the effect of your religion on other people. I don't care if you march all over a college campus and leave pamphlets by the truckload in your wake, but when a man in a suit can stand behind a podium and equate your faith to a message like "Kill all the sand people", that's when people like me speak up. Call me a religious bigot, but I'd sooner see faith die than people.

      August 14, 2011 at 3:14 pm |
  4. Faith

    The Bible declares, "God’s testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which He has given about His Son(Jesus). Whoever believes in the Son of God accepts this testimony. And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. The Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know Him who is true. And we are in Him who is true by being in His Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life." ( I John chapter 5)

    August 11, 2011 at 4:53 am |
    • V01D

      The tag on my mattress declares "Do not remove under penalty of law". I removed it and nothing happened.

      Words on paper are merely that. Outside of the indirect reaction they cause within the human mind, they have no intrinsic, mystical power. The power of words only lies in the reaction to them, with no one to read them they're simple scribbles of ink in a dusty book.

      August 14, 2011 at 3:20 pm |
  5. islam quran plunder

    http://quran.com/5/51
    O you who have believed, do not take the Jews and the Christians as allies. They are [in fact] allies of one another. And whoever is an ally to them among you – then indeed, he is [one] of them. Indeed, Allah guides not the wrongdoing people.
    http://quran.com/3/118
    O you who believe! Take not as (your) Bitanah (advisors, consultants, protectors, helpers, friends, etc.) those outside your religion (pagans, Jews, Christians, and hypocrites) since they will not fail to do their best to corrupt you. They desire to harm you severely. Hatred has already appeared from their mouths, but what their breasts conceal is far worse. Indeed We have made plain to you the Ayat (proofs, evidences, verses) if you understand.

    August 11, 2011 at 1:18 am |
  6. Muneef

    One of the reasons as to why the Sharia should be practiced to mend..
    Secular Morals;
    PETALING JAYA: A 20-year-old Malaysian student who was on his way to buy food to break his fast (for Ramadan) was attacked by rioters in Barking East, London.
    Wounded and bleeding on the street, he was later robbed by another gang.
    The robbery on Muhammad Asyraf Raziq Rosli which took place at 7pm London time (3am Malaysian time) yesterday
    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eeRNcqJChqo&w=640&h=390]

    August 10, 2011 at 10:46 pm |
  7. The Lionly Lamb of The Gods Does Roar

    On Wednesday, August 10, 2011 at 12:19 pm, Faith wrote, "Today, the West is the worst place on earth regarding religious freedom for Christians. Secularists blaspheme like hell to torture monotheists. No pagans or even communists were that bad."

    The 'West' I take it you Faith; are referring toward, is the continent of North America, being Canada and the U.S. of A or just the U.S. of A.? Secularism can have 'strange bedfellows' so to say. High society secularists in the U.S.of A. need not fear nor be subversive in the biased revolutionists of the lower branches of secualrism Faith. Even religious youths who are mentally unbalanced due possibly their familiar upbringing and social associations may become hate mongers and resort to bias-related crimes as is somewhat reported in this Blog.

    Faith, your posts tell me that you have some potency for seeing with much clarity many issues facing this world and you explain your points of view rather nicely. Keep it up Faith and I just might say, 'I like your style Faith!" (I do Faith) :-)

    However Pagans and Communists are breeds apart from each other and I find it somewhat amusing that someone uses such words in one sentence! Ideal Paganism, (if I'm on the right track) has a religious basis in their honoring otherly Gods away from Christendom's King of all the Gods and Goddesses which is none other than the Lord, Christ Jesus, redeemer of all souls be they lost or not. Communism though has its' roots in a secularist perspective, meaning they do not or no longer believe in or hold to there being 'Supreme Beings' other then their own kind of like minded people who are the condtrolling benefisciairies of the governing body as is the case in current Chinese politics. There are however many despots within Asia and the Middle East and parts of Africa whose despotisms are arranged rather indulgently around communistic like/styles of the written secularistic books of either their own works or taken from the books of secular history.

    August 10, 2011 at 5:05 pm |
  8. Faith

    Man, how did USA survive with so many ignorants in her land? USA need more immigrants.

    August 10, 2011 at 1:12 pm |
    • JohnQuest

      Faith, you prove the point of how and why America has survived and prospered, and it's thanks to our secularist. As religious as we are as a country, we are the only religious country were people can say whatever they want about the government, the ruling class and the church without fear of punishment from the state.

      August 10, 2011 at 2:03 pm |
    • Faith

      John, you are only partially right. Secularists polluted and are polluting the nation. USA is going down now because of secularists' godlessness. Secularists are specialized in destroying the good structure Christians created and built.

      August 11, 2011 at 4:30 am |
  9. William Demuth

    Religious freedom?

    Ask an Athiest what it means!

    Freedom of Religion, by its very nature must REQUIRE freedom of religion

    August 10, 2011 at 1:02 pm |
  10. Faith

    Today, the West is the worst place on earth regarding religious freedom for Christians. Secularists blaspheme like hell to torture monotheists. No pagans or even communists were that bad.

    August 10, 2011 at 12:19 pm |
    • J.W

      OMG you are so weird!

      August 10, 2011 at 12:24 pm |
    • Anti Christian Taliban Schizophrenics

      Faith/Adelina does not live in reality nor the USA. She really has no clue what happens here. My understanding is she is a crazy asian lady high on rotten cabbage.

      August 10, 2011 at 12:27 pm |
    • J.W

      Oh if she is asian I like her then.

      August 10, 2011 at 12:29 pm |
    • Anti Christian Taliban Schizophrenics

      I guessing she isn't very cute and most likely has a mustache. Maybe a Korean Baptist.

      August 10, 2011 at 12:32 pm |
    • J.W

      oh I am more into chinese or vietnamese. too bad

      August 10, 2011 at 12:33 pm |
    • Faith

      You guys are weird. Asians love white people. White people used to be very good. Nowadays, too many white perverts. Do something about it.

      August 10, 2011 at 12:33 pm |
    • Anti Christian Taliban Schizophrenics

      J.W

      oh I am more into chinese or vietnamese. too bad

      -------
      I like sushi girls. Perhaps growing up watching the Godzilla flics :)

      August 10, 2011 at 12:36 pm |
    • Faith

      I'm not Baptist and I'm very old. I have multi-nationality, but none of Vietnam. I'm here to remind my dear stupid Americans the true history and religion.

      August 10, 2011 at 12:37 pm |
    • Anti Christian Taliban Schizophrenics

      Faith

      You guys are weird. Asians love white people. White people used to be very good. Nowadays, too many white perverts. Do something about it.

      ----
      I do my part when I run into sushi girls :) No complaints to date. Perverted to a baptist is normal to the regular world.

      August 10, 2011 at 12:38 pm |
    • Faith

      You stupid boys should stop thinking about girls and seafood but start worrying over your stupidity. Nothing short of a miracle can cure you.

      August 10, 2011 at 12:39 pm |
    • Anti Christian Taliban Schizophrenics

      Faith

      I'm not Baptist and I'm very old.
      -----
      Do you have a mustache?

      August 10, 2011 at 12:40 pm |
    • Anti Christian Taliban Schizophrenics

      Faith

      You stupid boys should stop thinking about girls and seafood but start worrying over your stupidity. Nothing short of a miracle can cure you
      ------–
      I don't believe in magic. Nothing wrong with wine, women and song.

      August 10, 2011 at 12:41 pm |
    • Anti Christian Taliban Schizophrenics

      J.W

      oh I am more into chinese or vietnamese. too bad

      -----
      Hey I forgot to ask, you a chic or a dude? If you are a chic then that is hot.

      August 10, 2011 at 12:44 pm |
    • Faith

      I'm a woman. You guys are sick. Men who don't attend church regularly are sick, and they bully women and children.

      August 10, 2011 at 12:46 pm |
    • Anti Christian Taliban Schizophrenics

      Faith

      I'm a woman. You guys are sick. Men who don't attend church regularly are sick, and they bully women and children.

      -------–
      prove it

      August 10, 2011 at 12:47 pm |
    • J.W

      Faith maybe you and I together can pray for something. I think it will happen if we work together.

      August 10, 2011 at 12:48 pm |
    • Faith

      @Anti-, you are the perfect proof! @JW, you need to accept Jesus into your heart first. Join the local Christian church. Pray for America's repentance, revival and protection.

      August 10, 2011 at 12:58 pm |
    • J.W

      Faith you obviously know nothing about me. I am more of a Christian than you are obviously.

      August 10, 2011 at 1:04 pm |
    • Commenter

      @Faith: "...they bully women and children."

      Your Paul of Tarsus was a HUGE bully of women. He would not allow you (a woman) to even think of posting on these forums.

      August 10, 2011 at 2:10 pm |
    • Faith

      @Commenter, not true. This is not a church pulpit and you guys are filthy heathens, not Christians. Everything has a context. Stop pretending to know anything about Christianity. Atheists need to admit their ignorance on the things they've never learn or understood. You guys are too anti-truth. It's your disease.

      August 11, 2011 at 4:36 am |
    • Faith

      I think that America was intended to be a Christian nation. I'm so silly.

      August 11, 2011 at 8:38 am |
    • Sophia

      “admit their ignorance on the things they've never learn or understood. You guys are too anti-truth. It's your disease.”

      The world is your mirror, the good you find in others, is in you too. The faults you find in others are your faults as well

      August 11, 2011 at 8:49 am |
    • Faith

      The "Faith" right above is a fake. @Sophia, it's true about atheists. If everyone thinks all the time only like as you say, no one will have anything to say. You can't apply the same thing to everything. It's abundoning of finding truth in life. Don't apply to be a jury, please.

      August 11, 2011 at 11:17 am |
  11. The Lionly Lamb of The Gods Does Roar

    On Tuesday, August 9, 2011 at 4:45 pm, Anti Christian Taliban Schizophrenics wrote, "And you are seeing more and more resist and stand up to the evangelical bullies."

    Here in the U.S.A. we have no "evangelical bullies". Our pulpit loving evangelicals, be they home-churched or be they Tv Schooled, they only attempt to 'practice' that which they preach and give others/followers some sense of humbling semblance to ease the minds of those who see the ways of the world with fear. I do ask you A.C.T.S. to quit your disdaining writing of acts unbecoming your abilities!
    -–
    If only the ones in politics lived like this.

    August 9, 2011 at 7:12 pm

    I, Lionly Lamb do now respond saying, "It is Truth A.C.T.S. the politicians are clueless regarding what they should do to difuse the burdens of the masses' needs."

    August 10, 2011 at 11:20 am |
  12. Jus T. Curious

    @Martin, you said:

    "Reports like this only serve to convince me further that ALL religions are dangerous to mankind's existence on this planet."

    Are you sure that you read the report?

    August 10, 2011 at 5:49 am |
  13. Martin T

    Reports like this only serve to convince me further that ALL religions are dangerous to mankind's existence on this planet. I wonder what a civilization from a more advanced planet, who had come to the realization that all gods are nothing more than the reflection of their creators, would say about this backwards rock called Earth. I am often ashamed to be a human, especially when I look at the sorry state of affairs in places where people are killed and tortured in the name of this god or that religion. I look to Africa and see the immense suffering of the children and wonder how anyone who claims to follow a god can reconcile what is happening there with their faith. It amazes me.

    August 10, 2011 at 5:21 am |
    • JohnQuest

      Martin T, It amazes me too!!!

      August 10, 2011 at 9:54 am |
    • Faith

      Martin, you dream has been actualized in North Korea. Leave USA, the nation Christians created upon the Judeo-Christian values, and Immigrate to North Korea. America had nothing without the Jews and the Christian Britain.

      August 10, 2011 at 12:44 pm |
    • The Lionly Lamb of The Gods Does Roar

      @ Martin T

      You oh Marty did post, "I am often ashamed to be a human, especially when I look at the sorry state of affairs in places where people are killed and tortured in the name of this god or that religion. I look to Africa and see the immense suffering of the children and wonder how anyone who claims to follow a god can reconcile what is happening there with their faith. It amazes me"

      "killed and tortured in the name of this god or that religion" is a statement worthy a challenging where such does bare fruit from. Where are the 'trees' from whence you pulled such fruit from?

      Further on you state, " I look to Africa and see the immense suffering of the children,,,,,," More than just the children are suffering in certain areas of Africa Marty. I'd dare say it was due in part to the forces of pagan secularisms of non-effect governments' utilization of rad-tag barbaric militias that are found out; keeping much needed food and otherly supplies channeled to there from being dispersed. GOD did not 'create' the situations in Africa Marty, but many religious donations are pouring into the despot controlled regfions but with little success in these donations reaching those that needit! :-(

      August 10, 2011 at 4:26 pm |
    • evolvedDNA

      Lonley lions...if human beings concerned them selves with human affairs rather than trying to further the cause of their particular god it would improve the life of many in Africa. You appear to have either half christian and half muslim in each country and they are at war ideologically with each other, as if it matters at all. Religion is divisive and was the worst idea that the human race came up with. We have always lived in, and continue to live in a physically god less world..lets get on with the job of living rather than trying to impress a non existent enti-ty for a chance to get into a non exist afterlife.

      August 10, 2011 at 7:52 pm |
    • UnevolveDNA

      EvolveDNA

      "We have always lived in, and continue to live in a physically god less world..lets get on with the job of living rather than trying to impress a non existent enti-ty for a chance to get into a non exist afterlife"

      While you do good to impress noone than yourself, how about letting somebody do good to glorify a higher being that they believe commanding them indirectly through a book?

      Would it be too much to take for atheists to let believers do good for reasons that don't conform with theirs?

      August 12, 2011 at 6:03 am |
    • AGuest9

      UnevolveDNA – actually, the problem is the interference in education caused by the so-called religious. Evolutionary biology is no longer mandatory at some schools. This will put the patients of those studying to be doctors in dire straits when the doctors refuse "to believe" in evolution – I mean – antibiotic resistance.

      August 13, 2011 at 3:08 pm |
    • EvolvedDNA

      Lonely lamb chop... believers do good, so do non believers. You do it for reasons of personal gain whereas we do it as a altruistic gesture that is inherent in human beings. ...

      August 15, 2011 at 1:35 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.