Thursday, December 17, 2009

Which Nations are Poorest When it Comes to Religious Freedom?

The Pew Forum Report on Religion and Public Life yesterday said that "nearly 70 percent of the world's 6.8 billion people who live in countries that have severe restrictions on religion." It is mostly Muslim nations who impose such restrictions.

The report ranks countries by one index that assesses government restrictions on religion and another that measures social hostilities or curbs on religion that stem from violence or intimidation by private individuals or groups.

From this link we read:

The Government Restrictions Index is based on 20 questions used by the Pew Forum to assess state curbs on religion at the national, provincial and local levels.

"Is public preaching by religious groups limited by any level of government?," and "Taken together, how do the constitution/basic law and other national laws and policies affect religious freedom?" are among the questions asked.

Both lists rank 198 countries worldwide and are based on scales of 0-10. Saudi Arabia was the only country to appear on both "very high" lists. The rankings fall under four categories: "Very High," "High," "Moderate" and "Low".

Following are the countries ranked as the most restrictive or "Very High" on both lists. The first list has 10 countries, the second has 11.


Very High or Top 5 percent of scores from 6.7 to 8.4.

Saudi Arabia, Iran, Uzbekistan, China, Egypt, Burma (Myanmar), Maldives, Eritrea, Malaysia, Brunei.


Very High or Top 5 percent with scores from 6.8 to 9.4

Iraq, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Somalia, Israel, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Saudi Arabia.

I remember, in my U-Toledo dialogue with a Muslim Imam who was from Egypt, that I shared about persecution of Christians in Egypt on the basis of statistics such as these, plus three Egyptian pastors who were recent students of mine. The Imam just shook his head in disagreement.

The Pew Forum Report is the kind of thing that makes some of us wonder about what will happen if Islam grows in our country. Perhaps the Interfaith Dialogue efforts of ICA are in a significant minority? Is there something intrinsic to Islam that disallows freedom of religion?