A Pew study released on June 23 says that religious persecution around the world has been decreasing over the past few years.
The research, which analyzed data up to 2014, shows that government restrictions on religion and social hostilities towards religion declined slightly between 2013 and 2014. There was a similar decline in the year 2011-2012. This downward trend was noted after a steady increase in religious persecution during the previous years.
In 2014, some 24 percent of the 198 countries studied (with the exclusion of North Korea) had high or very high levels of government restrictions, which was less than 28 percent in the previous year. Social hostilities towards religion also dropped from 27 percent to 23 percent. In 2012, the religious hostilities had reached a record high at 33 percent before declining subsequently, the study said.
There was an increase in fundamentalist terrorist activities between 2007 and 2014, but this did not curtail the trend of moderate decline in government restrictions against religion.
The number of countries where terrorist activities were reported increased from 73 countries (37 percent of the total number of nations studied) in 2013 to 82 (41 percent). Terrorism displaced about 31.4 million people in 2014, as compared to 27.3 million in the previous year.
The ongoing crisis in Syria has displaced about 12.5 million or 60 percent of the Syrians from their homes, according to another Pew study.
Hundreds of thousands of refugees have fled to neighboring countries in the Middle East and Africa because of sectarian violence, and many have taken shelter in Europe and the United States.
However, the rise in terrorist violence was offset by decrease in assault and retaliatory actions against religious activities by social groups belonging to the majority faith in the country during the years 2013-14.
The level of social hostilities against minority religion were seen to have increased in the Middle East and North Africa, even though the incidents related to religion were down in many other parts of the world in the year 2014.
The overall level of restrictions, including government policies and social persecution, declined from 39 percent in 2013 to 34 percent in 2014. The restrictions were as high as 43 percent in 2012, Pew reported.
North Korea was excluded from the study, though it is known to be one of the most oppressive regimes in the world, because of insufficient data available to quote specific statistics on the level of government and societal persecution of religion in the country.
Pew has been analyzing the religious restrictions around the world for the last several years, and the study was a part of the Pew-Templeton Global Religious Futures project.