WASHINGTON, Aug. 9 (UPI) -- More than two-thirds of the world's population lives in countries where restrictions on religious beliefs and practices have increased, a U.S. report says.
The report. released Tuesday by the Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life, found more than 2.2 billion people live in countries where government restrictions on religion or social hostilities involving religion rose "substantially" between mid-2006 and mid-2009.
The report found only about 1 percent of the world's population lives in countries where such restrictions decreased.
Most of the countries that saw a substantial increase already had high or very high levels of restrictions or hostilities, the report found, while nearly half the countries that had substantial increases had already had low levels.
Restrictions on religious beliefs and practices increased in 23 of the world's countries, declined in three and remained mostly unchanged in 163, the report said.
For the 25 most populous countries, home to about three-fourths of the world's population, restrictions increased substantially in eight and decreased substantially in none, according to the report.
The report attributed increasing hostilities in China, Russia, Thailand, the United Kingdom and Vietnam to rising social hostilities involving religion, while in Egypt and France, increases came mainly because of government restrictions.
The remainder of the most populous countries, including the United States, had no substantial increase in social hostilities or government restrictions, the report said.
The report also found the number countries where governments used force against religious groups rose from 91 in mid-2008 to 101 in mid-2009. The violence included killings, physical abuse, imprisonment and displacement from homes as well as damage to or destruction of religious or personal properties, the report said.