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The Deacon's Bench

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At a moment when millions are flocking to churches or temples for seasonal celebrations, millions more are finding their religious freedom seriously restricted.

The news from a new study on religious persecution is grim:

People living in a third of all countries are restricted from practicing religion freely, either because of government policies and laws or hostile acts by individuals or groups, according to a study released Wednesday by the Pew Research Center, “Global Restrictions on Religion.”

That amounts to 70 percent of the globe’s population, since some of the most restrictive countries are very populous.

Of the world’s 25 most populous countries, citizens in Iran, Egypt, Indonesia, Pakistan and India live with the most restrictions when both measures are taken into account, the study found.

“Where those two come together is where it’s most intense,” said Brian Grim, senior researcher at the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion and Public Life.

The United States, Brazil, Japan, Italy, South Africa and the United Kingdom have the least amount of restrictions on religious practices when measured by both government infringement and religion-based violence or harassment, according to the study.

The study found that religious minorities suffer the brunt of the intolerance.

Timothy Shah, a senior research scholar at Boston University who is familiar with the study, said he was struck by the fact that more than 30 countries have high levels of both government and social restrictions on religion.

Shah pointed to Nigeria, where 12 majority-Muslim states adopted the Islamic Sharia criminal code after returning to civilian rule in 1999, resulting in hostilities against religious minorities.

“Where the state throws its weight around, that naturally creates a response of social hostility,” he said.

Check out more at the link.


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