In the next phase of the Global Religious Futures (GRF) project, we propose to turn to South Asia, with a particular focus on India, the world’s largest democracy and home to roughly 1 billion Hindus, 175 million Muslims and 30 million Christians. Given its enormous population, the diversity of its 29 states and the sensitivity of religion in its social and political life, India is as challenging to survey as at least a dozen smaller countries combined. Nevertheless, our preliminary discussions with scholars and research field houses in India have convinced us that a large-scale, high-quality survey in India is achievable, and we believe we could break new ground in the study of religious change by focusing on a religiously diverse country that has undergone rapid economic development with, so far, few visible signs of secularization. At the same time, we would also like to collect fresh data in neighboring Pakistan and Bangladesh, which we previously surveyed in 2011 as part of our research on the views and experiences of Muslims around the world. While we are preparing the sampling plans and questionnaires for South Asia, our demographic team will mine the Indian census for data on religious identification going back to 1951 and will analyze previous surveys for differences in the socio-economic status, health and well-being of Indian religious groups. Our demographers also will continue to test the assumptions and refine the methods that went into our global projections of the future size of the world’s major religions, looking in particular at the impact of changing family structures. And we will continue to track restrictions on religion. In the past, we have found that India has very high levels of social hostilities involving religion (ranking 4th worldwide on our Social Hostilities Index in 2015), as well as high levels of government-imposed restrictions on religion (42nd worldwide on our Government Restrictions Index in 2015).
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