Nearly 70% of the world’s people live in countries that restrict religious liberty, according to a study by the Pew Forum. The Pew survey found restraints on religious expression in 64 countries, including some of the world’s most populous nations. The Pew study reported:
The highest overall levels of restrictions are found in countries such as Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Iran, where both the government and society at large impose numerous limits on religious beliefs and practices. But government policies and social hostilities do not always move in tandem. Vietnam and China, for instance, have high government restrictions on religion but are in the moderate or low range when it comes to social hostilities. Nigeria and Bangladesh follow the opposite pattern: high in social hostilities but moderate in terms of government actions.
Northern Africa and the Middle East are the regions where religious freedom is most heavily circumscribed, the Pew study found; the Americas allow the greatest degree of religious liberty. The survey encountered high degrees of both government regulation and popular hostility to religious minorities in countries such as Iran, Egypt, Indonesia, Pakistan, and India. The large countries with low levels of both regulation and public hostility were Brazil, Japan, the United States, Italy, South Africa, and the United Kingdom.