Unparalleled heights were reached in 2012 as religious hostility increased in nearly all regions of the world.

According to a January 2014 Pew Research report, 74 percent of the global population in 2012 lived in areas where religious hostility was high or very high.

There was a significant increase in the Pacific region, though “the sharpest increase was in the Middle East and North Africa, which still is feeling the effects of the 2010-11 political uprisings known as the Arab Spring,” Pew noted. Only the Americas did not see an increase in hostility.

While government restrictions on religion increased by only a percentage point in 2012, when “looking at the overall level of restrictions – whether resulting from government policies or from social hostilities” – a six-year high was reached with 43 percent of countries having high or very high restrictions.

Jews and Muslims experienced the greatest increase in hostility in 2012, while, “as in previous years, Christians and Muslims – who together make up more than half of the global population – were harassed in the largest number of countries (110 and 109, respectively),” Pew added.

The report also revealed a sharp surge – from 38 percent in 2011 to 47 percent in 2012 – in the “abuse of religious minorities by private individuals or groups in society for acts perceived as offensive or threatening to the majority faith of the country.”

There was a 6 percent jump in the use of violence or the threat thereof to enforce religious norms.

Citing the Pew Research report, Rupen Das – director of the master of religion in Middle Eastern and North African studies at Arab Baptist Theological Seminary in Lebanon – commented on the increase of religious hostilities in Syria.

“It is estimated that at least 600,000 Syrian Christians have fled Syria, out of a population of 2-3 million Christians in the country. The very well-founded fear is that Christianity will be decimated in a country where Christians have had a presence and a witness since the time of Christ.”

“The story of Christianity in much of the Middle East in the last millennium,” he added, “has been one of survival rather than one of evangelism and growth.”

The full report, which includes appendices noting the indices used to measure data and providing results by country, is available here.

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