New Zealand tops Commonwealth religious freedom list

religious freedom

New Zealand has been named in new research as the Commonwealth member country where people enjoy the greatest religious freedom.

The Council of Christians and Jews (CCJ) statistics were unveiled ahead of the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting which took place on April 19 and 20 in the United Kingdom.

The figures show that the 53-state Commonwealth is “a vibrant multi-faith entity, but that religious freedom is still severely lacking in some countries.”

Using data from the Pew Global Religious Futures Project, the figures show that Lesotho and Botswana closely follow New Zealand in the religious freedom rankings.

Malaysia heads the list of those with the least religious freedom, followed by India and Nigeria.

Christianity is the largest religious community in 43 countries of the Commonwealth, although only eight designate it as an official state religion.

The most religiously diverse country is Singapore, followed by Mozambique, while Papua New Guinea, which is 99.2 percent Christian, is the least.

Zaki Cooper, a CCJ trustee, said: “With its population of 2.4 billion people in 53 countries, spanning six continents, the Commonwealth is a truly multi-faith entity.

“Every major religion is practised within the boundaries of the Commonwealth, and each of these major religions is to be found in some way, shape or form in every Commonwealth country.”

Cooper said while Christians are the largest religious grouping in 43 of the countries, many of them have significant minorities from different communities.

He said the survey showed a mixed picture for religious freedom. There is persecution of minorities in some Commonwealth countries.

Eight of the 53 Commonwealth countries appear on the Open Doors World Watch List – the ranking of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian.


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