A recent report from the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life (http://tinyurl.com/7pjddml) reveals that Christianity is now the world’s largest single faith, with just over a third of the global population identifying themselves as Christian.
But perhaps the study's most significant finding is that the center of Christian population is moving steadily southward. The areas with the largest gains in Christian populations are sub-Saharan Africa and the Asia-Pacific region. During the early 20th century only about six percent of the population in sub-Saharan Africa was Christian. Today the percent of the population that lives in sub-Saharan Africa which is identifiable as Christian is 63 percent.
According to the report, while about 90 percent of Christians live in countries where Christians are in the majority, 10 percent of Christians worldwide live as minorities. In these minority regions, Christians are subject to a disproportionately larger number of religious attacks and harassment.
The horrific Christmas violence against Nigerian Christians by the radical Islamist militant sect Boko Haram is only the most recent example. Coptic Christians in Egypt have come under repeated attack, as have Christians in Indonesia, Iran (where a pastor sits on death row), and Iraq to name a few.
Close behind Christianity in numbers is Islam, at about 25 percent and increasing. If current trends continue, Islam will become the most popular world religion sometime in the mid-21st century.
These fast-changing dynamics have placed the two communities on what appears to be a dangerous collision course and which has translated into ever increasing religious conflict.
Dr. Georgette Bennett, President and Founder of the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding, addresses the issue in an insightful essay showing that religion can be part of the solution rather than the cause of conflict.