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Religious violence, abuse growing: world study

Religious-linked violence and abuse rose around the world between 2006 and 2009, with Christians and Muslims the most common targets, according to a private US study.

"Over the three-year period studied, incidents of either government or social harassment were reported against Christians in 130 countries (66 per cent) and against Muslims in 117 countries (59 per cent)," said the Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion and Public Life study.

In 2009, governments in 101 nations, more than half the globe, used at least some measure of force against religious groups. A year earlier only 91 nations had done so, the report said.

Among the 25 most populous nations home to 75 percent of the global population, restrictions on religion increased substantially in eight countries -- China, Egypt, France, Nigeria, Russia, Thailand and Vietnam -- and did not fall significantly in any.

As of 2009, more than 2.2 billion people, or nearly a third of the world's population of 6.9 billion, lived in countries where religious restrictions had risen substantially since 2006, the study said.

In regional terms, the Middle East and North Africa had the highest proportion of countries in which government-imposed restrictions hampered people's freedom to practice their faith.

Egypt, under now-deposed leader Hosni Mubarak, stood out, earning itself a ranking in the top five percent of all countries in 2009 for government-imposed restrictions and social hostilities involving religion.

Five of the 10 countries in the world that saw a substantial increase in religion-related social hostilities were in Europe -- Britain, Bulgaria, Denmark, Russia and Sweden.

Religious-linked violence resulted in individuals being killed, physically abused, imprisoned, detained or displaced from their homes, and in damage to personal or religious properties, the study said.

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