What is the fastest growing religion? Worldwide, it is Islam. But outside Europe, the growth of Christianity is still ahead.
This is the conclusion of Philip Jenkins, a distinguished scholar at Baylor University in Texas, who specialises in religious history. He points particularly to phenomenal growth of Christianity in Africa.
“During the twentieth century,” Jenkins says, “Christian numbers expanded mightily around the world, but especially in the global South. According to the respected World Christian Database, since 1900 the number of African Christians has grown by an incredible 4930 per cent, and the growth in Latin America was 877 per cent.
“The increase for particular denominations was even more startling. During the twentieth century, Africa’s Catholic population grew from 1.9 million to 130 million — an increase of 6700 per cent.
Jenkins says the number of African Christians in 2050 will be almost twice as large as the total figure for all Christians alive anywhere in the globe back in 1900.
While Christianity will probably still account for one-third of the global population by the year 2050 — the same proportion as in 1900 — in some ways Muslims have significantly outpaced Christians, Jenkins says.
“In 1900, for instance, Egypt had perhaps nine million Muslims, compared to 75 million today.
“In the same period, the number of Iranian Muslims grew from ten million to perhaps 65 million. In 1900, the lands that would become Indonesia had perhaps 34 million Muslims, compared to 190 million today.
“Put another way, four times as many Christians are alive today as there were in 1900; but over the same period, Muslims have grown at least seven-fold.”
Jenkins says overall Christian numbers lagged because that faith was traditionally concentrated in Europe, and Europe’s demographic growth has been very slow in comparison with other parts of the globe.
“Back in 1900, Europeans made up around a quarter of the world’s population, but by 2050 that number will probably be closer to eight per cent.”
Image: The Record