Religious hostilities increase and reach six-year global high

(Photo: REUTERS / Mohamed Abd El Ghany)Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar Ahmed El-Tayeb (C) prays next to Police General Nabil Farag's son (front row, head bowed) during Farag's military funeral service at Al-Rashdan Mosque in Cairo's Nasr City district September 20, 2013. Egyptian security forces were hunting for supporters of deposed President Mohamed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood on Friday after retaking control of a town near Cairo in a crackdown on Islamists. On Thursday, army and police forces stormed Kerdasa where Islamist sympathies run deep and hostility to the authorities has grown since the army overthrew and imprisoned Mursi on July 3. Farag was killed during Thursday's security operation

A new survey reveals that religion in the world is not becoming more peaceful, and hostilities around it are increasing in the world, but not in the Americas.

Pew Research Center has found that the share of countries with a high or very high level of social hostilities involving religion reached a six-year peak in 2012.

A third (33 percent) of the 198 countries and territories included in the study had high religious hostilities in 2012, up from 29 percent in 2011 and 20 percent as of mid-2007.

The survey was released on the eve of Religious Freedom Day in the United States.

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Each year, the President declares January 16 to be Religious Freedom Day, and calls upon Americans to "observe this day through appropriate events and activities in homes, schools, and places of worship."

The day is the anniversary of the passage, in 1786, of the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom.

The goal of ReligiousFreedomDay.com is to promote and protect students' religious expression rights by informing educators, parents, and students about these liberties.

Religious hostilities increased in every major region of the world except the Americas.

The sharpest increase was in the Middle East and North Africa, which still is feeling the effects of the 2010-11 political uprisings known as the Arab Spring when massive social and political upheaval accelerated in the region.

There also was a significant increase in religious hostilities in the Asia-Pacific region, where China edged into the "high" category for the first time.

The share of countries with a high or very high level of government restrictions on religion stayed roughly the same in the latest year studied.

About three-in-ten countries in the world (29 percent had a high or very high level of government restrictions in 2012, compared with 28 percent in 2011 and 20 percent as of mid-2007.

Europe had the biggest increase in the median level of government restrictions in 2012, followed closely by the Middle East-North Africa – the only other region where the median level of government restrictions on religion rose.

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