“America proudly stands with people of every nation who seek to think, believe, and practice their faiths as they choose."
The Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan social science fact tank [research organization], recently released a report on religious hostilities. According to the study, in 2012 members of religious groups were harassed in 166 countries, more than in any of the previous five years.
Globally, the overall level of restrictions on religion has reached a six year high. Now over 5.3 billion people – or 76 percent of the world’s population – live in places with high or very high restrictions on religion, up from 68 percent in 2007.
Two of the seven major religious groups monitored by the study – Muslims and Jews – experienced a six-year high in the number of countries in which they were harassed by governments or civil society. As in previous years, the study finds that Christians and Muslims – who together make up more than half of the global population – were harassed in the largest number of countries (110 and 109, respectively).
The study was released in advance of national Religious Freedom Day, celebrated in the U.S. on January 16. In a proclamation honoring this occasion, President Barack Obama said, “America proudly stands with people of every nation who seek to think, believe, and practice their faiths as they choose… [The U.S.] will remain committed to promoting religious freedom, both at home and across the globe. We urge every country to recognize religious freedom as both a universal right and a key to a stable, prosperous and peaceful future.”
In a statement issued on Religious Freedom Day, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power commented on the Pew Research Center report and said the United States is proud to lead the fight against all forms of religious intolerance, wherever they exist. “Protecting freedom of religion,” she stated, “is a cornerstone of American foreign policy, carried out by prioritizing accountability for religiously-motivated violence, urging governments to adopt legal protections for religious minorities, and promoting societal respect for religious diversity.”