Pew has released a series of new report on global religious freedom, and the results aren’t pretty: religious hostility shot up to a six-year high in 2012. If you’ve been reading the news, you’ll know that religious violence has spiked in the Middle East and in African countries like the Central African Republic. So the increase in countries with high or very high levels of religious tension (20 percent in 2007 to 33 percent today) might not be surprising. But Pew also uncovered some things which may hit closer to home for Westerners:
About three-in-ten countries in the world (29%) had a high or very high level of government restrictions in 2012, compared with 28% in 2011 and 20% 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.
Given the ongoing stories of rising anti-Semitism in Europe, the influx of Muslim immigrants, and the occasional stories of restraints on public Christianity, that datum may not be unexpected. But it reminds us that religious liberty isn’t a geographically isolated problem, and the next few decades may bring full-on religious ferment and conflict, even in our own backyard.