From 2012 to 2014, changes pertaining to religious freedom in the world have mostly been for the worse, according to the Catholic NGO Aid to the Church in Need in its report Religious Freedom in the World 2014, which was released in November in several languages at events in various countries in America and Europe.
The report focuses especially, but not exclusively, on issues relating to the persecution of Christians: it notes that in countries with the highest level of infringements upon religious freedom, “Muslim minority groups also face terrible and systematic persecution,” often at the hand of other Muslims (e.g. tensions between Sunni and Shia Islam). Out of 196 countries in the world, there are no concerns regarding religious freedom in 80 countries.
But in 81 countries, religious freedom is impaired at high or medium levels, or in decline, while 35 countries have some religious freedom issues of concern, but without a deterioration of their status. During the period considered, changes for the better have been observed in 6 countries, while deteriorating conditions are reported in 55 countries. Out of 20 countries with a lack of religious freedom at a high level, 14 experience religious persecution linked to extremist Islam and six linked to an authoritarian regime.
The report goes on to say, “Throughout parts of the Middle and Far East, the phenomenon of the mono-confessional state is emerging” at places where different religious groups had managed to live alongside each other until recently. Thus, the report concludes that global religious freedom has entered a period of decline, with research conducted by Aid to the Church in Need confirming the impression conveyed by global media headlines.
The report also “reinforces earlier research establishing that Christians are by far the most persecuted faith group. Christians’ susceptibility to oppression is directly related to the fact that they are historically widely dispersed, often in cultures very different from their own.”
(The full report country by country can be consulted online: http://www.aidtochurch.org/report2014/ An executive summary is also available: http://acn.convio.net/site/PageNavigator/Religious_Freedom_Report.html)