CHRISTIANITY is growing almost as fast as humanity itself, but its
2.2 billion adherents cannot count on safety in numbers. That is partly
because the locus of the world’s largest religion is shifting to hotter
(in several senses) parts of the world. According to a report published
by the Pew Forum in December, the Christian share of the population of
sub-Saharan Africa has soared over the past century, from 9% to 63%.
Meanwhile, the think-tank says, the Christian proportion of Europeans
and people in the Americas has dropped, respectively, from 95% to 76%
and from 96% to 86%.
But moving from the jaded north to the dynamic south does not portend
an easy future. In Nigeria scores of Christians have died in Islamist
bomb attacks, targeting Christmas prayers. In Iran and Pakistan
Christians are on death row, for “apostasy”—quitting Islam—or blasphemy.
Dozens of churches in Indonesia have been attacked or shut. Two-thirds
of Iraq’s pre-war Christian population have fled. In Egypt and Syria,
where secular despots gave Christianity a shield of sorts, political
upheaval and Muslim zeal threaten ancient Christian groups. Not all
Christianity’s woes are down to Muslims. The faith faces harassment in
formally communist China and Vietnam. In India Hindu nationalists want
to penalise Christians who make converts. In the Holy Land local
churches are caught between Israeli encroachment on their property and
Islamist bids to monopolise Palestinian life. Followers of Jesus may yet
become a rarity in his homeland.
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