WASHINGTON - Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, Somalia, and Israel — countries with less religious diversity — top the list of countries with the most conflicts motivated by faith, according to a new American survey.
Faith-based violence include “armed conflict or terrorism, mob or sectarian violence, harassment over attire for religious reasons, or other religion-related intimidation or abuse,” according to a Pew Research Center report on the countries with the most and least religious diversity.
In terms of religious diversity, Afghanistan and Somalia are among the 10 least-diverse countries in the world, and Pakistan was also given a rating of “low” diversity. Israel and India are both considered only moderately diverse.
In Southeast Asia and the Middle East, Pakistan, which has large Christian and Hindu minority populations, scores 0.8 on PEW Research’s Global Religious Diversity Index that determines diversity on the basis of percentage of each country’s population that belongs to eight major religious groups.
Also, among Muslim countries Pakistan has far greater religious diversity than some large countries including Iran, Turkey and several Central Asian states. Pakistan’s population includes 96.4 per cent Muslims, 1.9 per cent Hindus, 1.6 per cent Christians, while other religious groups account for less than 0.1 per cent.
Among the countries with least religiously diverse populations are the Vatican City, Morocco, and Tokelau that all score 0 on the scale. Pakistan’s neighbour Afghanistan is also among the least religiously diverse states.
Almost all the Arab and Middle East countries including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates comparatively have more religiously diverse populations and score better on the scale from 0 to 10. Bangladesh and India have also more religious diversity but do not score high on the index.
According to the survey, the Asia-Pacific region, home to Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and non-religious people, is the most diverse part of the world. Canada and Australia both have high levels of diversity and low to moderate levels of hostility. This is also true in certain African countries, like Benin, Ghana, and Mozambique, as well as in some small Latin American countries, like Cuba, Guyana, Suriname, and Uruguay.
There are some notable exceptions. China is incredibly religiously diverse, but the country has also experienced a significant amount of faith-based conflict. Many Latin American countries are pretty uniformly Christian and peaceful, although Mexico and Colombia are notable exceptions, with much higher levels of violence than the rest of the region. And many countries are somewhere in the middle: The US has moderate diversity and moderate hostility, as do several European countries.
These findings come with some limitations: The diversity study doesn’t account for different denominations within religions, like Sunnis and Shias in Muslim countries or Protestants and Catholics in Christian countries; apparently it was too difficult to gather enough data to make those distinctions.
It noted that pluralism itself might help reduce violence, or countries that tolerate high levels of diversity might attract people less inclined to violence. And these trends may be related to overall patterns of violence and political instability in the world — in the past several years, some of the countries with the highest levels of religious affiliation have been hit hard by war, especially in the Middle East.