A report placed Pakistan at the top of a list of 198 countries most suffering from social hostilities involving religion, by the end of 2012.
The Pew Research Center's report issued two indices, based on statistics from the years 2007-2012:
1) The Government Restrictions Index (GRI), which measures government laws, policies and actions that restrict religious beliefs and practices.
2) The Social Hostilities Index (SHI), which measures acts of religious hostility by private individuals, organisations or groups in society.
The results show that "Pakistan had the highest level of social hostilities involving religion, and Egypt had the highest level of government restrictions on religion."
Neighbours Afghanistan and India were also up there with Pakistan in the SHI index.
Worldwide, except for the Americas, "the share of countries with a high or very high level of social hostilities involving religion reached a six-year peak in 2012," while "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."
Pakistan topped the list for most religious hostilities while showing a 'very high' range of scores in the other index too.
SHI - One third of 198 countries reviewed saw high or very high levels of internal religious strife, such as sectarian violence, terrorism or bullying in 2012, compared to 29 percent in 2011 and 20 percent in 2010.
The biggest rise came in the Middle East and North Africa, two regions that are still feeling the effects of the Arab Spring of 2010-2011, said the Pew Research Center.
As an example, the report cites an increase in attacks on Coptic churches and Christian-owned businesses in Egypt. It said China has also witnessed a big rise in religious conflict.
PEW said that radical elements often target mainstream Muslims and Christians in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Somalia, while India has recurring tensions between its majority Hindus and minority Muslims and Christians.
Results for strong social hostility such as anti-Semitic attacks, assaults by Muslims on churches and Buddhist agitation against Muslims were the highest seen since the series began, reaching 33 per cent of surveyed countries in 2012 after 29 per cent in 2011 and 20 per cent in mid-2007.
Christians and Muslims, who make up more than half of the world's population, have been stigmatised in the largest number of countries. Muslims and Jews have suffered the greatest level of hostility in six years, the report said.
Religious violence declined in the Ivory Coast, Serbia, Ethiopia, Cyprus and Romania.
GRI - The number of countries whose governments have imposed restrictions, such as bans on practicing a religion or converting from one to another, has remained more or less the same, however. Three out of ten countries have high or very high levels of restrictions, the study said.
Official bans, harassment or other government interference in religion rose to 29 per cent of countries surveyed in 2012 after 28 per cent in 2011 and 20 per cent in mid-2007.
Harassment against women and religious connotations of the way they dress has also risen in nearly a third of countries to 32 per cent, compared to 25 per cent in 2011 and seven per cent in 2007.
The five countries with the most government restrictions on religion are Egypt, China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Indonesia.
Among the 25 most heavily populated countries, Egypt, Indonesia, Russia, Pakistan and Myanmar suffered the most religious restrictions.
The 198 countries studied account for more than 99.5 per cent of the world's population, said the Pew center.
It did not include North Korea, whose government "is among the most repressive in the world, including toward religion."
The Washington-based center, which is non-partisan and takes no policy position in its reports, gave no reason for the rises noted in hostility against Christians, Muslims, Jews and an "other" category including Sikhs, Bah'ais and atheists. Hindus, Buddhists and folk religions saw lower levels of hostility and little change in the past six years, according to the report's extensive data.
Increase in hostility largest in Europe
Europe showed the largest median increase in hostility due to a rise in harrassment of women because of religious dress and violent attacks on minorities such as the murder of a rabbi and three Jewish children by a radical in France.
Tensions in Israel arise from the Palestinian issue, disagreements between secular and religious Jews and the growth of ultra-Orthodox sects that live apart from the majority.
Jews face hostility
The world's two largest faiths, Christianity and Islam, make up almost half the world's population and were the most widely targetted in 2012, facing official and social hostility in 110 and 109 countries respectively.
Jews suffer hostility in 71 countries, even though they make up only 0.2 per cent of the world's population and about 80 per cent of them live in Israel and the United States.
The report said there were probably more restrictions on religion around the world than its statistics could document but its results could be considered "a good estimate".
It classified war and terrorism as social hostility, arguing: "It is not always possible to determine the degree to which they are religiously motivated or state sponsored."
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