The share of countries with a high or very high level of social hostilities involving religion reached a six-year peak in 2012, according to a new study by the Pew Research Center. A third (33%) of the 198 countries and territories included in the study had high religious hostilities in 2012, up from 29% in 2011 and 20% as of mid-2007. Religious hostilities increased in every major region of the world except the Americas. 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.1 There also was a significant increase in religious hostilities in the Asia-Pacific region, where China edged into the “high” category for the first time. The share of countries with a high or very high level of government restrictions on religion stayed roughly the same in the latest year studied. About three-in-ten countries in the world (29%) had a high or very high level of government restrictions in 2012, compared with 28% in 2011 and 20% as of mid-2007. Europe had the biggest increase in the median level of government restrictions in 2012, followed closely by the Middle East-North Africa – the only other region where the median level of government restrictions on religion rose. Looking at the overall level of restrictions – whether resulting from government policies or from social hostilities – the study finds that restrictions on religion are high or very high in 43% of countries, also a six-year high. Because some of these countries (like China) are very populous, more than 5.3 billion people (76% of the world’s population) live in countries with a high or very high level of restrictions on religion, up from 74% in 2011 and 68% as of mid-2007. Among the world’s 25 most populous countries, Egypt, Indonesia, Russia, Pakistan and Burma (Myanmar) had the most restrictions on religion in 2012, when both government restrictions and social hostilities are taken into account. As in the previous year, Pakistan had the highest level of social hostilities involving religion, and Egypt had the highest level of government restrictions on religion. Social hostilities related to religion in Burma (Myanmar) rose to the “very high” level for the first time in the study. During the latest year studied, there also was an increase in the level of harassment or intimidation of particular religious groups. Indeed, two of the seven major religious groups monitored by the study – Muslims and Jews – experienced six-year highs in the number of countries in which they were harassed by national, provincial or local governments, or by individuals or groups in society. 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). This is the fifth time the Pew Research Center has reported on religious restrictions around the globe. (See About the Study section.) The new study scores 198 countries and territories on the same 10-point indexes used in the previous studies:
- The Government Restrictions Index (GRI) measures government laws, policies and actions that restrict religious beliefs and practices. The GRI is comprised of 20 measures of restrictions, including efforts by governments to ban particular faiths, prohibit conversions, limit preaching or give preferential treatment to one or more religious groups.
- The Social Hostilities Index (SHI) measures acts of religious hostility by private individuals, organizations or groups in society. This includes religion-related armed conflict or terrorism, mob or sectarian violence, harassment over attire for religious reasons or other religion-related intimidation or abuse. The SHI includes 13 measures of social hostilities.2
Increases in Social Hostilities
As noted above, there has been a sizable increase in the share of countries with high or very high levels of social hostilities involving religion. Increases in the percentage of countries experiencing certain types of religious hostilities have driven this rise. One example is 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. Incidents of abuse targeting religious minorities were reported in 47% of countries in 2012, up from 38% in 2011 and 24% in the baseline year of the study. In Libya, for instance, two worshippers were killed in an attack on a Coptic Orthodox church in the city of Misrata in December 2012. This was the “first attack [in Libya] specifically targeting a church since the 2011 revolution,” according to the U.S. Department of State.3 In some countries, violence toward religious minorities intensified from the levels reported in previous years. In Buddhist-majority Sri Lanka, for example, monks attacked Muslim and Christian places of worship, including reportedly attacking a mosque in the town of Dambulla in April 2012 and forcibly occupying a Seventh-day Adventist church in the town of Deniyaya and converting it into a Buddhist temple in August 2012.4 And in Muslim-majority Egypt, attacks on Coptic Orthodox Christian churches and Christian-owned businesses were on the rise well before the acceleration in attacks that took place following the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in July 2013 (which falls outside the date range studied in this analysis). For instance, in August 2012, in the village of Dahshur, a dispute between a Christian and a Muslim led to one death and more than a dozen injuries. Several Christian homes and businesses were destroyed and nearly all Christian families fled the village.5 The study finds that the share of countries where violence, or the threat of violence, was used to compel people to adhere to religious norms also increased in 2012. Such actions occurred in 39% of countries, up from 33% in 2011 and 18% as of mid-2007. In Vietnam, for instance, the managing council of the government-recognized Cao Dai religion, a syncretistic religious movement that originated in Vietnam in the 20th century, orchestrated an assault on followers of an unsanctioned Cao Dai group in September 2012, injuring six. The head of the Cao Dai managing council said the reason for the assault was that the followers of the unsanctioned group were not worshipping according to the dictates of the council.6 In addition to new instances of violence, efforts to enforce religious norms intensified in other countries. In India, members of a Hindu nationalist organization, Hindu Jagarana Vedike, enforced a morality code, including an attack on young men and women for allegedly drinking and dancing at a birthday party in the state of Karnataka in July.7 And in parts of Somalia under the control of the Islamic militant group al-Shabab, the group continued to ban cinemas, music, smoking, shaving beards and other behavior it views as “un-Islamic.” The group reportedly beheaded a 24-year-old man in Barawa in November 2012 after accusing him of converting to Christianity.8 The new Pew Research Center study finds that harassment of women over religious dress occurred in nearly a third of countries in 2012 (32%), up from a quarter in 2011 (25%) and less than one-in-ten (7%) as of mid-2007. In China, for instance, a Han Chinese man accosted a Uighur Muslim girl in Henan province and lifted her veil in November 2012. In response, violent protests broke out as hundreds of Uighurs demonstrated against the incident.9 And in Moldova, two men attacked a Muslim woman in the capital city of Chisinau, calling her a “terrorist” and tearing her headscarf.10 Mob violence related to religion occurred in a quarter of countries in 2012 (25%), up from 18% in 2011 and 12% as of mid-2007. In May 2012, for instance, a Muslim mob in Kenya attacked and killed two pastors who were visiting a Christian who had converted from Islam.11 Mob violence also escalated in Indonesia, as Muslim groups targeted houses of worship, religious schools and homes of other Muslims they deemed “unorthodox,” according to the U.S. Department of State. In August 2012, for instance, some 500 Sunni hard-liners attacked a Shia community in the city of Sampang, killing two people, burning dozens of homes and displacing hundreds of people.12 And in Nigeria, hundreds of Muslim youths attacked and burned Christian businesses and places of worship in November 2012 after a Christian was accused of blasphemy. Four Christians were killed.13 Religion-related terrorist violence occurred in about a fifth of countries in 2012 (20%), roughly the same share as in 2011 (19%) but up markedly from 2007 (9%). In March 2012, a rabbi and three Jewish children were killed by an Islamist extremist at a Jewish school in Toulouse, France.14 In the United States, an August 2012 shooting at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin left six worshippers dead and three others wounded.15 In some countries where there had previously been religion-related terrorist attacks, these attacks escalated. The widely covered 2013 al-Shabab attack on a Nairobi mall (which falls outside the date range studied in this analysis), for instance, was part of a steady increase in religion-related terrorism in Kenya. In July and November 2012, militants attacked churches near the Kenya-Somalia border with grenades and gunfire, leaving more than a dozen dead and more than 50 wounded.16 The new study finds that the share of countries experiencing sectarian violence rose last year, continuing a trend noted in the previous report in this series.17 Sectarian violence was reported in nearly one-fifth of the world’s countries in 2012 (18%), up from 15% in 2011 and 8% as of mid-2007. In China, for example, sectarian tensions escalated into violence in October 2012 when Tibetan Buddhist monks led an attack against Hui Muslims at a site where a new mosque was being built in Gansu province.18 Ongoing sectarian violence also continued unabated in some countries in 2012. In Burma (Myanmar), for instance, communal violence between Rohingya Muslims and Rakhine Buddhists has resulted in hundreds of deaths and displaced more than 100,000 people from their homes.19 In Syria, the ongoing civil war has fallen partly along sectarian lines, leaving tens of thousands dead and displacing millions in recent years.20 And in Iraq, sectarian strife between Sunni and Shia Muslims continued, and attacks of some kind continued to occur on an almost daily basis.21
Government Restrictions Stayed Roughly the Same
The overall level of government restrictions worldwide stayed roughly the same. There were some increases on a few measures. The study finds that the share of countries where some level of government interfered with worship or other religious practices increased to 74% in 2012, up from 69% in 2011 and 57% in the baseline year. In Tuvalu, for instance, the central government began enforcing a law that prevents unapproved religious groups from holding public meetings.22 According to the study, public preaching by religious groups was restricted by governments in 38% of countries in 2012, up from 31% in 2011 and 28% as of mid-2007. In Tunisia, for instance, authorities made efforts to remove imams suspected of preaching what were seen as divisive theologies, including Salafism.23 Governments used force against religious groups or individuals in nearly half (48%) of the world’s countries in 2012, up from 41% in 2011 and 31% as of mid-2007. In April 2012 in Mauritania, for instance, “the government arrested 12 anti-slavery activists and charged them with sacrilege and blasphemy, along with other civil charges, for publicly burning religious texts to denounce what the activists viewed as support for slavery in Islamic commentary and jurisprudence,” according to the U.S. Department of State.24
Countries With Very High Social Hostilities Involving Religion
In the latest year studied, the number of countries with very high religious hostilities rose from 14 to 20, an increase of more than 40%. Six countries had very high social hostilities in 2012 but not in 2011: Syria, Lebanon, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Thailand and Burma (Myanmar). And every country that had very high social hostilities in 2011 continued to have very high hostilities in 2012. (See table below.) Meanwhile, 76 countries (38%) had low levels of religious hostilities in 2012, down from 87 (44%) in 2011. (For a complete list of all countries in each category, see the Social Hostilities Index table.)
Countries With Very High Government Restrictions on Religion
The number of countries with very high government restrictions rose from 20 in 2011 to 24 in 2012, an increase of 20%. Five countries had very high government restrictions in 2012 but not in 2011: Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, Morocco, Iraq and Kazakhstan. Just one country that had very high government restrictions in 2011 – Yemen – did not have very high restrictions in 2012. (See table below.) Meanwhile, 97 countries (49%) had low levels of government restrictions in 2012, down from 100 (51%) in 2011. (For a complete list of all countries in each category, see the Government Restrictions Index table.)
Changes in Social Hostilities
In addition to scoring countries on both indexes, the study looks at the extent and direction of change in the level of social hostilities involving religion within each country between 2011 and 2012. Eleven countries (6%) had large changes (2.0 points or more) in their scores on the 10-point Social Hostilities Index, and all 11 (Mali, Libya, Mexico, Tunisia, Syria, Guinea, Netherlands, Madagascar, Lebanon, Afghanistan and Malawi) were in the direction of increased hostilities. In northern Mali, for example, Islamist extremists implemented harsh penalties under sharia law, including executions, amputations and flogging. They also destroyed churches and banned baptisms and circumcisions. Hundreds of Christians fled to the southern part of the country during the year.25 In Afghanistan, violent protests broke out at Kabul University after Sunni Muslim students attempted to prevent Shia Muslim students from performing Ashura holiday rituals in November 2012, resulting in two deaths and several injuries.26 Among countries with modest changes (1.0 to 1.9 points), 28 had increases (14%).27 In some cases, changes of less than 2.0 points are notable. For example, Somalia’s score on the SHI increased from 7.8 in 2011 to 9.5 in 2012. This means that each of the 13 types of social hostilities involving religion was present in Somalia in 2012, including religion-related war and terrorism, mob violence, hostility over religious conversion, harassment of women for violating religious dress codes, and all six types of malicious acts and crimes inspired by religious bias: harassment and intimidation, displacement from homes, destruction of religious property, abductions, physical abuse and killings. In the seven countries with decreases of 1.0 to 1.9 points (Timor-Leste, Ivory Coast, Serbia, Ethiopia, Cyprus, Romania and Cambodia), some hostilities that occurred in 2011 did not reoccur in 2012. In Cambodia, for instance, violent conflict over land surrounding the ancient Hindu temple of Preah Vihear occurred during the first half of 2011, but no violence was reported in 2012.28 And in Ethiopia, there were no reported outbreaks of mob violence similar to the one that took place in March 2011, when hundreds of Muslim extremists destroyed more than 60 evangelical Protestant homes and churches in the Oromia region.29 Among countries with small changes on the Social Hostilities Index (less than 1.0 point), 58 had increases (29%) and 45 had decreases (23%). Considering changes of one point or more in social hostilities from 2011 to 2012, 20% of countries had increases and 4% of countries had decreases. In 2011, by comparison, 14% of countries had increases of one point or more and 2% had decreases of one point or more.
Changes in Government Restrictions
This study also looks at the extent and direction of change in government restrictions on religion within each country between 2011 and 2012. Just two countries (1%) had large changes (2.0 points or more) in their scores on the 10-point Government Restrictions Index, one toward higher restrictions (Rwanda) and the other toward lower restrictions (Ivory Coast). In Rwanda, a new law regulating religious organizations went into effect during the year, introducing burdensome registration requirements and other restrictions.30 And in the Ivory Coast, as post-election violence subsided, there was a drop in religion-related assaults because the election violence fell largely along ethnic and religious lines.31 Among countries with modest changes (1.0 to 1.9 points), 13 had increases (7%) and six had decreases (3%).32 And among countries with small changes (less than 1.0 point), 80 had increases (40%) and 56 had decreases (28%). Considering changes of one point or more in government restrictions from 2011 to 2012, 8% of countries had increases and 4% of countries had decreases. The level of increase in government restrictions during the latest year studied was about the same as the increase in the previous year, when 6% of countries had increases and 2% had decreases of one point or more.
Changes in Overall Restrictions
Considering government restrictions and social hostilities together, increases outnumbered decreases in each point range during the latest year studied. Among countries whose scores went up or down by 2.0 points or more on either of the indexes after taking into account any offsetting change on the other index, 11 increased and none decreased.33 Overall, restrictions increased at least somewhat in 61% of countries and decreased in 29% between 2011 and 2012. This is a slightly larger margin of difference than during the preceding year, when 60% of countries had increases and 35% had decreases.
Harassment of Specific Groups
The Government Restrictions Index and Social Hostilities Index each include a measure of the harassment of specific religious groups (GRI.Q.11 and SHI.Q.1.a). Harassment and intimidation by governments or social groups take many forms, including physical assaults; arrests and detentions; desecration of holy sites; and discrimination against religious groups in employment, education and housing. Harassment and intimidation also include things such as verbal assaults on members of one religious group by other groups or individuals. Harassment or intimidation of specific religious groups occurred in 166 countries in 2012, a six-year high. In 2012, government or social harassment of Muslims was reported in 109 countries; the previous high was 101 countries in the previous year of the study. Jews were harassed in 71 countries in 2012, slightly higher than the year before (69 countries, which was the previous high). Harassment of Christians continued to be reported in the largest number of countries (110), an increase from the previous year (105) but not a six-year high. There also was an increase in the number of countries in which Hindus, Buddhists and members of folk or traditional religions were harassed. Overall, across the six years of this study, religious groups were harassed in a total of 185 countries at one time or another. Members of the world’s two largest religious groups – Christians and Muslims, who together comprise more than half of the global population – were harassed in the largest number of countries, 151 and 135, respectively.34 Jews, who comprise less than 1% of the world’s population, experienced harassment in a total of 95 countries, while members of other world faiths were harassed in a total of 77 countries. In 2012, some religious groups were more likely to be harassed by governments, while others were more likely to be harassed by individuals or groups in society. Jews, for instance, experienced social harassment in many more countries (66) than they faced government harassment (28). By contrast, members of other world faiths, such as Sikhs and Baha’is, were harassed by some level of government in more countries (35) than they were by groups or individuals in society (21).
Regions and Countries
Looking at the extent and direction of change on the Government Restrictions Index and the Social Hostilities Index together, increases of one point or more outnumbered decreases of that magnitude in all five regions. The Middle East-North Africa region and Europe had the largest share of countries with increases of one point or more (35% and 31%, respectively). The Americas had the lowest proportion of countries where overall restrictions increased by one point or more (3%). Asia and the Pacific and sub-Saharan Africa were the only regions where decreases of one point or more occurred.
Social Hostilities by Region
The median level of social hostilities involving religion increased in four of the five regions (the Middle East and North Africa, Asia and the Pacific, Europe and sub-Saharan Africa). It stayed roughly the same in the Americas. As in the previous years of the study, social hostilities involving religion were highest in 2012 across the Middle East and North Africa. The region’s median score on the Social Hostilities Index rose from 5.4 in 2011 to 6.4 in 2012, three times the global median (2.0). Religious hostilities increased in 15 of the 20 countries in the region and declined in only four. (One country, Qatar, had no change.) Four countries in the Middle East-North Africa region had scores that rose by two or more points: Libya (whose score rose from 1.9 in 2011 to 5.4 in 2012), Tunisia (3.5 to 6.8), Syria (5.8 to 8.8) and Lebanon (5.6 to 7.9). Among the social hostilities that went up in the region in the latest year studied were mob attacks, violent attacks on members of minority religious groups and efforts to prevent other religious groups from operating.35 In the Asia-Pacific region, the median score on the Social Hostilities Index rose from 2.2 in 2011 to 2.9 in 2012, rising further above the global median. Factors contributing to the increase included an uptick in sectarian violence, which was reported in 11 of the 50 countries in the region in 2012, up from seven countries in 2011. There also was an increase in the number of countries in the region reporting attempts by organized groups to dominate public life at the national level with their perspective on religion, violence to enforce religious norms and violence toward members of minority religious groups. China’s score rose to the “high” level of social hostilities for the first time in the study, moving from 2.2 in 2011 to 3.6 in 2012. Multiple types of social hostilities were present in China in 2012, including religion-related terrorism, harassment of women for religious dress, and mob violence and sectarian conflict. Europe’s median score on the Social Hostilities Index rose from 2.3 in 2011 to 2.7 in 2012, remaining above the global median. There was an increase in the number of European countries where harassment of women due to religious dress and violent attacks on members of minority religious groups were reported. Sub-Saharan Africa’s median score on the Social Hostilities Index rose from 1.5 in 2011 to 2.1 in 2012, slightly above the global median. Among the religious hostilities that were reported in a higher number of countries in the region were mob violence, enforcement of religious norms, violence against members of minority religious groups and harassment of women due to religious dress. The median level of social hostilities in the Americas remained low, 0.4 in 2012 and 0.6 in 2011, significantly lower than the global median (2.0). There was one country in the region with a noticeable increase in religious hostilities – Mexico – where the level of social hostilities went from “moderate” (3.2) to “high” (6.7).
Government Restrictions by Region
The median level of government restrictions on religion increased in two of the five regions (Middle East-North Africa and Europe) and decreased in two regions (Asia-Pacific and sub-Saharan Africa). It stayed the same in the Americas. In the latest year studied, the Middle East and North Africa continued to have the highest median level of government restrictions. The median score on the Government Restrictions Index for the 20 countries in the region rose from 5.9 in 2011 to 6.2 in 2012, much higher than the global median (2.4). Government restrictions increased in half of the countries in the region. For example, widespread government intimidation of religious groups was reported in 16 of the 20 countries, up from 13 countries in 2011.36 In the Asia-Pacific region, the median Government Restrictions Index score decreased from 4.2 in 2011 to 3.5 in 2012, though it remained above the global median. Among the government restrictions that decreased in the region were restrictions on foreign missionaries and government violence toward minority or unapproved religious groups. In Europe, the median score on the Government Restrictions Index rose from 2.2 in 2011 to 2.6 in 2012, rising just above the global median. Increases in government restrictions within the region included more reported limits on worship or religious practices, widespread harassment or intimidation of religious groups, violence against members of minority religious groups and restrictions on religious literature. Sub-Saharan Africa’s median score on the Government Restrictions Index declined slightly, from 1.9 in 2011 to 1.7 in 2012, remaining below the global median. Decreases in government restrictions included fewer limits on proselytizing and fewer restrictions on the work of foreign missionaries. There also were fewer reports that governments did not intervene in cases of religious discrimination. The Americas’ median score on the Government Restrictions Index stayed the same in 2012 (at 1.5), considerably below the global median. Government harassment or intimidation of religious groups was reported in 16 of the 35 countries in the Americas in 2012, down from 18 in 2011.
Restrictions and Hostilities in the Most Populous Countries: 2012
Among the world’s 25 most populous countries, Egypt, Indonesia, Russia, Pakistan and Burma (Myanmar) stand out as having the most restrictions on religion (as of the end of 2012) when both government restrictions and religious hostilities are taken into account. Brazil, the Philippines, Japan, South Africa and the Democratic Republic of the Congo have the least restrictions and hostilities. None of the 25 most populous countries had low social hostilities involving religion in 2012, while five had low government restrictions on religion: Brazil, South Africa, the Philippines, Japan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. As discussed in a previous report, the United States moved from the low category of government restrictions as of mid-2009 to the moderate category in 2010, where it remained in 2012.37 Among the 25 most populous countries, Turkey was the only one in which the level of government restrictions increased by one full point or more, and Japan and Nigeria were the only two in which the level of government restrictions decreased by one point or more. The level of religious hostilities increased by one point or more in nine countries: Mexico, Turkey, China, Burma (Myanmar), Thailand, France, Vietnam, Bangladesh and Italy. Ethiopia was the only country among the 25 most populous where the level of religious hostilities decreased by one or more points during the same time period. (See Government Restrictions Index table and Social Hostilities Index table.)
Among the world’s 25 most populous countries, Egypt, Indonesia, Russia, Pakistan and Burma (Myanmar) stand out as having the most restrictions on religion when both government restrictions and social hostilities are taken into account. (Countries in the upper right of the chart have the most restrictions and hostilities.) Brazil, the Philippines, Japan, South Africa and the Democratic Republic of the Congo have the least restrictions and hostilities. (Countries in the lower left have the least restrictions and hostilities.)
Select a year to see index scores in that year. For 2007-2010, the index scores are for the 12-month period ending in June of that year. For 2011 and 2012, the index scores are for the calendar year. [Note: this scatterplot has been updated to reflect scores from 2013, our latest report.]
About the Study
These are among the key findings of the Pew Research Center’s assessment of global restrictions on religion in calendar year 2012. The 198 countries and self-administering territories covered by the study contain more than 99.5% of the world’s population. They include 192 of the 193 member states of the United Nations as of 2012 plus six self-administering territories — Kosovo, Hong Kong, Macau, the Palestinian territories, Taiwan and Western Sahara.38 Each country or territory was scored on a total of 33 measures phrased as questions about government restrictions and social hostilities involving religion. (For the full question wording, see the Summary of Results [PDF].) The Government Restrictions Index is comprised of 20 questions; there are 13 questions on the Social Hostilities Index. To answer the questions that make up the indexes, researchers from the Pew Research Center’s Religion & Public Life Project combed through 18 widely cited, publicly available sources of information, including reports by the U.S. State Department, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, the Council of the European Union, the United Kingdom’s Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Human Rights Watch, the International Crisis Group, Freedom House and Amnesty International. (For the complete list of sources, see the Methodology.) The researchers involved in this process recorded only concrete reports about specific government laws, policies and actions, as well as specific incidents of religious violence or intolerance by social groups; they did not rely on the commentaries or opinions of the sources. (For a more detailed explanation of the coding and data verification procedures, see the Methodology.) The goal was to devise a battery of quantifiable, objective measures that could be analyzed individually as well as combined into two comprehensive indexes, the Government Restrictions Index and the Social Hostilities Index. Some of the increases in the level of religious restrictions noted in this study could reflect the use of more up-to-date or better information sources, but there is no evidence of a general informational bias in the direction of higher restrictions. For instance, the government restrictions and social hostilities sections of the U.S. State Department’s annual reports on International Religious Freedom (one of the 18 primary sources used in this study) in general have become shorter in more recent years. Pew Research staff monitor the impact of source information variability each year. (See the Methodology for more details.) Readers should note that the categories of very high, high, moderate and low restrictions or hostilities are relative – not absolute – rankings based on the overall distribution of index scores in the initial year of this study. As such, they provide a guide for comparing country scores and evaluating their direction of change over time. They also reflect the number and severity of various kinds of restrictions or hostilities that occurred in any part of a country. Accordingly, more populous countries may have a higher likelihood of scoring higher than less populous countries, though in practice, some countries with very high levels of restrictions or hostilities, such as the Maldives and the Palestinian territories, have relatively small populations. Finally, it is very likely that more restrictions exist than are reported by the 18 primary sources. But taken together, the sources are sufficiently comprehensive to provide a good estimate of the levels of restrictions in almost all countries. The one major exception is North Korea. The sources clearly indicate that North Korea’s government is among the most repressive in the world with respect to religion as well as other civil and political liberties. (The U.S. State Department’s 2012 Report on International Religious Freedom, for example, says that “Genuine freedom of religion does not exist” in North Korea.) But because North Korean society is effectively closed to outsiders and independent observers lack regular access to the country, the sources were unable to provide the kind of specific, timely information that Pew Research categorized and counted (“coded,” in social science parlance) for this quantitative study. Therefore, the report does not include scores for North Korea.