The percentage of countries experiencing a high or very high level of social hostilities involving religion rose to a six-year peak in 2012, according a study released Tuesday by the Pew Research Center.
Israel was ranked as having a very high level of religious hostilities, as were the Palestinian territories, Syria, Iraq, Russia, and Yemen, among other countries. Unlike many of its neighbors, however, Israel was not on the list of countries with very high government restrictions on religion.
Pew found high levels of religious hostilities in a third of the 198 countries and territories included in the study, up from only 20% in 2007.
The Middle East and North Africa region suffered the highest spike in religious hostilities in 2102. North and South America were the only regions in which there was no perceived jump.
The study is the fifth in Pew’s series on global restrictions on religion. The authors used reports from the US, UN, and the EU, in addition to research from human rights groups, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.
The study also examined government restrictions on religion, finding that Europe experienced the sharpest rise in the median level of government restriction in 2012. Overall, 76% of the world’s population live in countries with high or very high levels of religious restrictions.
Both Muslims and Jews, the study found, experienced six-year highs in the number of countries in which they experienced harassment by governments, groups, or individuals.
Religion-related terrorist violence took place in a fifth of countries in 2012, way up from the 2007 level of 9% of countries but similar to the 2011 level of 19%.
Pew’s Social Hostilities Index measured acts of religious hostility by private individuals, organizations or groups in society, including religion-related armed conflict or terrorism, mob or sectarian violence, and harassment over religious attire.
The Government Restrictions Index measured government laws, policies and actions that restrict religious beliefs and practices including efforts by governments to ban particular faiths, prohibit conversions, limit preaching or give preferential treatment to certain religious groups.