Article 18 of the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights is perhaps the strongest international endorsement of Religious Freedom ever written: “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.” It is particularly imperative in this special section that educators and students have an overview of the status of religion in Asia: the world’s most populous continent.
We begin with recent data from the highly respected annual report Freedom in the World by Freedom House that encompasses 210 countries and territories: thirty-eight Asian entries are rated. Based upon the Freedom in the World report, it is an understatement to assert Asia’s global position is mixed. Several Asian countries, including Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea receive high global religious freedom rankings while other Asian countries including, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Việt Nam, and notably, the People’s Republic of China, receive low ratings on the Freedom in the World report’s religious freedom question. India, although still highly rated by Freedom House, in the past few years is clearly becoming less tolerant of religious liberty. Other sources that follow the Freedom in the World report should enhance reader understanding of religious freedom in Asia.