[caption id="attachment_6387" align="alignright" width="275" caption="Source: Pew Forum, "Rising Restrictions on Religion""][/caption]

An arresting new study, issued by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, demonstrates that "restrictions on religious beliefs and practices rose between mid-2006 and mid-2009 in 23 of the worlds 198 countries (12%)." However, as the study notes, this 12% figure is misleading: "Because several countries with increasing restrictions on religion are very populous, however, the increases affect a much larger share of people than of states. More than 2.2 billion people nearly a third (32%) of the worlds total population of 6.9 billion live in countries where either government restrictions on religion or social hostilities involving religion rose substantially over the three-year period studied."

The Pew report is well quantified; "The researchers involved in this process recorded only concrete reports about specific government laws, policies and actions, as well as incidents of religious violence or intolerance by social groups; they did not rely on the commentaries or opinions of the sources." In other words, the researchers can back up what they claim with hard data, which makes their findings all the more disturbing. Family Research Council believes that religious liberty is a right bestowed by God, which is why we advocate for it here at home and stand with those persecuted for their faith around the world.

In comments to a group of the Society of Friends (Quakers) in 1789, George Washington noted that "The liberty enjoyed by the people of these states of worshiping Almighty God agreebly to their conscience, is not only among the choicest of their blessings, but also of their rights." The right of religious liberty is endowed to all men, everywhere, as each of us is made in God's image and likeness and merits the freedom conscientiously to follow Him. When government interferes with that right, it oversteps its God-given authority. Sadly, such overstepping is far too common in our time.

Christians can write or email the embassies of offending countries, respectfully calling on them to stop persecution of believers in their nations. Some can go to the regions affected to minister to those who are oppressed. Most can give to organizations that help fight persecution (see FRC's Real Compassion to learn about ministries that work for international religious liberty). And all of us can pray. Let us.