d) Christianity Today

Christianity_percentage_by_country (wikipedia)(a) Where Are Christians?

“A comprehensive demographic study of more than 200 countries finds that there are 2.18 billion Christians of all ages around the world, representing nearly a third of the estimated 2010 global population of 6.9 billion.

…. In 1910, about two-thirds of the world’s Christians lived in Europe, where the bulk of Christians had been for a millennium, according to historical estimates by the Center for the Study of Global Christianity. Today, only about a quarter of all Christians live in Europe (26%). A plurality – more than a third – now are in the Americas (37%). About one in every four Christians lives in sub-Saharan Africa (24%), and about one-in-eight is found in Asia and the Pacific (13%).

…. the proportion of Europeans and Americans who are Christian has dropped from 95% in 1910 to 76% in 2010 in Europe as a whole, and from 96% to 86% in the Americas as a whole.

…. At the same time, Christianity has grown enormously in sub-Saharan Africa and the Asia-Pacific region, where there were relatively few Christians at the beginning of the 20th century. The share of the population that is Christian in sub-Saharan Africa climbed from 9% in 1910 to 63% in 2010, while in the Asia-Pacific region it rose from 3% to 7%. Christianity today – unlike a century ago – is truly a global faith.

…. Christians are diverse theologically as well as geographically, the new study finds. About half are Catholic. Protestants, broadly defined, make up 37%. Orthodox Christians comprise 12% of Christians worldwide. Other Christians, such as Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses, make up the remaining 1% of the global Christian population.

…. Clearly, Christianity has spread far from its historical origins. For example:

  • Though Christianity began in the Middle East-North Africa, today that region has both the   lowest concentration of Christians (about 4% of the region’s population) and the smallest   number of Christians (about 13 million) of any major geographic region.
  • Although Christians comprise just under a third of the world’s people, they form a majority of the population in 158 countries and territories, about two-thirds of all the countries and territories in the world.
  • About 90% of Christians live in countries where Christians are in the majority; only about 10% of Christians worldwide live as minorities.”

—From the Executive Summary of ‘Global Christianity: A Report on the Size and Distribution of the World’s Christian Population’ by The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life: A Project of the Pew Research Center (dated December 19, 2011; taken from http://www.pewforum.org/Christian/Global-Christianity-exec.aspx on 30th September, 2012)

(b) Christianity and Africa

“Europe has now been surpassed by Africa in terms of practising Catholics and, … , within 10 years, the continent will outgrow the Americas too, to become the most populace Christian continent.

…. Christians now account for 53 percent of the continent’s population and 31 countries have Christian majorities. This compares to a 46 percent representation of Muslims across Africa, where 21 countries have Muslim majorities. In terms of traditional religions, these appear to have dwindled to just 8 percent of the overall population.”

—World Report, edited by Paul Keenan, in the Irish Catholic newspaper, 27th September 2012, reporting on the 2012 CESNUR Conference in Morocco, September 20-22

(c) Restrictions on Religion

“Three-quarters of the world’s approximately 7 billion people (5.25 billion) live in countries with high government restrictions on religion or high social hostilities involving religion.

…. In the year ending in mid-2010, government or social harassment of Christians was reported in 111 countries… Government or social harassment of Jews was reported in 68 countries…. Incidents of harassment involving members of other world religions – including Sikhs, ancient faiths such as Zoroastrianism, and newer faiths such as Baha’is and Rastafarians – occurred in 52 countries in the year ending in mid-2010…. Members of groups that practice folk or traditional religions (including African traditional religions, Chinese folk religions, Native American religions and Australian aboriginal religions) faced harassment in 26 countries…. Buddhists were harassed in 15 countries…. Muslims were harassed in 90 countries and Hindus faced harassment in 16 countries.

…. As with government restrictions, social hostilities involving religion were highest in the Middle East and North Africa.

Each country or territory was scored on a total of 33 measures phrased as questions about government restrictions or social hostilities involving religion.”

—From the Summary of Findings of ‘Rising Tide of Restrictions on Religion’, a study by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion and Public Life’ (Report dated September 20, 2012; taken from http://www.pewforum.org/Government/Rising-Tide-of-Restrictions-on-Religion-findings.aspx on September 30, 2012)

Religious Freedom

Every human being is a “seeker” of the truth of his own origin and of his own destiny. In the person’s mind and in the “heart”, thoughts and questions arise, which cannot be repressed or smothered, such that they emerge from a profound place and are intrinsic to one’s intimate essence. They are questions of religion and, in order to fully manifest themselves, require religious freedom. They seek to shed light on the authentic meaning of existence, on the links that bind it to the cosmos and to history, and seek to rend the darkness that would engulf human history should such questions not be asked, should they remain unanswered.

… Reason recognises that religious freedom is a fundamental right of man, reflecting his highest dignity, that of seeking the truth and adhering to it, and recognising it as an indispensable condition for realising all his potential. Religious freedom is not simply freedom of thought or private worship. It is the freedom to live according to ethical principles, both privately and publicly, consequent to the truth one has found.

This is a great challenge in the globalized world, where weak thought — which is like a disease — also lowers the general ethical level, and in the name of a false concept of tolerance, it ends in persecuting those who defend the truth about man and its ethical consequences.

…. In place of the global clash of values, it thus becomes possible to start from a nucleus of universally shared values, of global cooperation in view of the common good.

In light of the acquisitions of reason, confirmed and refined through revelation and the civil progress of peoples, it is incomprehensible and alarming that still today discrimination and restrictions of rights continue for the single fact that one belongs to and publicly professes an unwavering faith. It is unacceptable that real persecution is actually sustained for reasons of religious affiliation! Wars as well! This distorts reason, attacks peace and humiliates human dignity.

It causes me great pain to know that Christians in the world submit to the greatest amount of such discrimination. Persecution against Christians today is actually worse than in the first centuries of the Church, and there are more Christian martyrs today than in that era.”

—Pope Francis, 20th June 2014, to participants in a conference in Rome on “International Religious Freedom and the Global Clash of Values” as reported by news.va and vatican.va

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