Weekly religion news with items on a Pew study that "measured" global religious intolerance, “SoulPancake" by Rainn Wilson, Charlemagne and more.
The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life has released its findings of the first study that attempts to quantify the levels of government and social restrictions on religion in the world.
The study, Global Restrictions on Religion, included 198 counties and self-administering territories, or more than 99.5 percent of the world’s population. The study took place from 2006 to 2008, and researchers relied on facts and information from 16 widely cited and publicly available reports, including reports from the U.S. State Department, the Council of the European Union, Human Rights Watch and the International Crisis Group. Researchers also considered government actions, policies, laws and specific incidents of religious violence or intolerance.
Freedom is defined as “the absence of hindrance, restraint, confinement or repression,” and the study focused on measuring the presence of religious restrictions of various kinds and categorized them into two indexes: the Government Restrictions Index and the Social Hostilities Index.
During the period of the study, researchers reveal that 64 nations, or nearly 70 percent of the world population, live with high restrictions on religion, whether it results from government policies or civilian hostilities.
Overall, the highest levels of restrictions are found in countries such as Saudi Arabia, Iran and Pakistan. Vietnam and China are noted for having high government restrictions on religion, but moderate to low social hostilities. Nigeria and Bangladesh have high social hostilities but moderate government restrictions.
Among all the regions, the Middle East-North Africa region has the highest level of restriction for both indexes of measure, while the Americas have the least restrictions. Among the world’s 25 most populous countries, Iran, Egypt, Pakistan and India have the most restrictions, while Brazil, Japan, the United States, Italy, South Africa and the United Kingdom have the least.
Public tensions among religious groups were found in 87 percent of countries, and 64 percent (126 countries) experienced hostilities that involved violence. In 49 countries, civilian people or groups used force or threats to push adherence to a religion. In 17 countries, religion-related terrorism that resulted in causalities occurred.
In 178 countries (90 percent of the world) religious groups must register with the government, and in 117 countries, registration requirements create problems for or discrimination against certain faiths.
One country that is excluded from the findings is North Korea because of its closed-off nature. Researchers were unable to gather the specific information that was necessary to evaluate and quantify this country, so there are no scores on which to report. However, the study says, “sources clearly indicate that North Korea’s government is among the most repressive in the world with respect to religion as well as other civil and political liberties.”
Week in Religion
- Dec. 14, 1981, the modern nation of Israel formally annexed the Golan Heights, which had been captured from Syria during the 1967 War.
-Dec. 15, 1990, More than 400 American Roman Catholic theologians charged that the Vatican had been throttling church reforms and imposing "an excessive Roman centralization."
- Dec, 16, the Colored Methodist Church of America was established in Jackson, Tenn. Its name was changed in 1954 to the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church.
Habitat for Humanity International, an ecumenical Christian ministry dedicated to the cause of poverty housing, has surpassed its 400,000-house milestone while helping 74,960 families worldwide.
“SoulPancake: Chew on Life’s Big Questions” by Rainn Wilson, Devon Gundry, Golriz Lucina and Shabnam Mogharabi.
Rainn Wilson (best known for playing Dwight Schrute on NBC's "The Office") and a bunch of his friends are on a mission. Based on the wildly successful website SoulPancake.com, this book urges you to explore philosophy, creativity, spirituality, love, truth, science and so much more. With bold questions, intriguing challenges and mind-bending art, this book creates a space for you to stimulate your brain stem, spark your soul and figure out what it means to be human.
Get to Know …
Charlemagne (circa 742 – 814) became Emperor of the Romans and conquered Italy. He is now known as the Father of Europe because he united most of Western Europe. He is also associated with the Carolingian Renaissance, an emergence of art, religion and culture via the Catholic Church.
Westminster standards: From 1643 to 1648, the Westminster Assembly of Divines wrote the Westminster Confession of Faith, the Larger Catechism and the Shorter Catechisms. They form the theological basis for the Presbyterian and, with some changes, the congregational denominations. The Baptist Confession of 1689 was largely based on the Westminster standards.
Religion Around the World
Religious makeup of Egypt
Muslim (mostly Sunni): 90 percent
Coptic: 9 percent
Other Christian: 1 percent
- CIA Factbook
GateHouse News Service