Pew study: Governments around the world are tightening the screws on religious freedom

Pew study: Governments around the world are tightening the screws on religious freedom

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Sanwara Begum, 20, poses for a photograph with her 25-day-old daughter Aasma inside their shelter in Kutupalang unregistered refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, February 9, 2017. Sanwara Begum fled to Bangladesh from Khyeri Prang village in Myanmar, with her husband around two and a half months ago. Her husband Rafiqullah now works as a day labourer in Cox’s Bazar. “No one wants to leave their own home. We have come to Bangladesh only to save our lives. Myanmar is our home, we will move to Myanmar immediately if the situation becomes stable,” Sanwara said. Source: Reuters/Mohammad Ponir Hossain

12th April 2017

RESTRICTIONS on religion and social conflicts involving religion increased for the first time in three years, according to the findings of the Pew Research Centre’s latest annual study on religious freedom.
The Pew Research Centre report Global Restrictions on Religion Rise Modestly in 2015, Reversing Downward Trend found that countries which are highly restrictive of religion via discriminatory laws, policies and other actions increased slightly from 24 to 25 percent during 2015.
Meanwhile, countries with “high or very high levels of social hostilities” spurred by private individuals, organisations or groups in societies increased from 23 to 27 percent.
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The Asia-Pacific, along with the Middle East and North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa and Europe have all seen increases in government harassment and the use of force against religious groups since 2007.
One in four people live in a country with high or very high levels of restriction or conflict around religion, which Pew says is spurred by the fact that some Asian nations ranking poorly in the index such as Pakistan and Indonesia are also some of the most populous on the planet.
China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam and Singapore were all listed as having “very high government restrictions on religion” by the Pew research.
Meanwhile, the small Southeast Asian communist nation Laos dropped out of this category between 2014 and 2015.
Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka had been listed “very high social hostilities involving religion” in 2014, but dropped out of this category in 2015.
Making up more than half the world’s population, Muslims and Christians were persecuted in the most countries worldwide.
The study showed that the number of countries where Jews were harassed fell slightly in 2015, after years of steady increases.
Interestingly, a recent Pew study of American attitudes to various religious showed that their feelings towards all faiths warmed, even under Donald Trump. Attitudes towards Muslims improved by around eight percentage points from the previous 2014 study.
Given ongoing reports of state-endorsed persecution and violence against Rohingya Muslims since 2016, it seems likely that religious freedom will continue to decline in the Asia Pacific in Pew Research Centre’s next study.
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