Study; Christians are the world's most persecuted religious group
Persecution against Christians reported in 110 countries
A new study by the Pew Research Center found that restrictions, harassment and intimidation towards people of faith increased in every major region of the world in 2012 with the exception of the Americas. Interestingly, the study found that Christians are more likely to be persecuted worldwide than any other religious group.
"North Korea remains the world's most restrictive nation in which to practice Christianity," followed by Somalia, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Maldives, Pakistan, Iran and Yemen, according to a report made by the Christian group Open Doors.
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According to the Pew report, "5.3 billion people (76 percent of the world's population) live in countries with a high or very high level of restrictions on religion . up from 74 percent in 2011 and 68 percent as of mid-2007."
A fifth of the world's nations (20 percent) also experienced religious terrorism or sectarian violence in 2012, Pew researchers found, which was "up markedly from 2007 (nine percent)."
U.S. President Barack Obama expressed hope that the "Arab Spring" would give rise to greater religious freedom in North Africa and the Middle East, which has had the world's highest level of hostility towards religion. The more recent study finds that these regions actually experienced the largest increase in religious hostilities in 2012.
In the six years that Pew has conducted the study, Christians were being harassed for their faith in 151 countries and Muslims in 135. Together, the two groups represent the world's two largest religious affiliations and more than half of the world's population.
Jews, who make up less than one percent of the world's population, experienced religious persecution in 95 countries. Researchers also found an increase in religious harassment in countries where Hindus, Buddhists or followers of other traditional religions predominated.
"Among the world's 25 most populous countries, Egypt, Indonesia, Russia, Pakistan and Burma (Myanmar) had the most restrictions on religion in 2012," the report stated.
The southeast nation of Pakistan had the highest level of social hostilities involving religion, while Egypt had the highest level of government restrictions on religious practice, Pew found.
Syria, Lebanon, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Thailand and Burma rose to the "very high" level of social hostility towards religion last year.
Pope Francis calls for your 'prayer and action'...
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Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for March 2014
Respect for Women: That all cultures may respect the rights and dignity of women.
Vocations: That many young people may accept the Lordís invitation to consecrate their lives to proclaiming the Gospel.
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