The migration of faith, an interactive map (PEW)

Some of you might be interested in this interactive map of the migration of faith around the world from PEW (see report). (HT Duncan Green, From Poverty to Power.)

For example, Into Kenya: (click each image for a better picture)

Out of Kenya

Into the US

Out of the US

Top destinations for Christians:

Top countries of origin for Christian migrants

Top destinations for Muslims

Top migrant Muslim countries of origin:

Hindu Migrants

Migrants of Other Religions

Unaffiliated Migrants

Faith on the Move: The Religious Affiliation of International Migrants (PEW)

 March 8, 2012 Report

Religious Restrictions Rising (Pew)

A recent Pew study shows that religious restrictions have risen for over 1/3 of the world’s population between 2006-2009. More than 2.2 billion people – nearly a third (32%) of the world’s total population of 6.9 billion are facing greater religious restrictions. See Executive Summary for more details.


Among the five geographic regions covered in this report, the Middle East-North Africa had the highest government and social restrictions on religion, while the Americas were the least restrictive region on both measures. The Middle East-North Africa region also had the greatest number of countries where government restrictions on religion increased from mid-2006 to mid-2009, with about a third of the region’s countries (30%) imposing greater restrictions. In contrast, no country in the Americas registered a substantial increase on either index.

In China, there was no change in the level of government restrictions on religion, which remained very high. But social hostilities involving religion, which had been relatively low, increased substantially from mid-2006 to mid-2009.

The future of the global Muslim population (Pew)

The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life has released a new study on the future of global Muslim populations.

The full study can be downloaded PDF (11 MB)

Executive Summary:

…The world’s Muslim population is expected to increase by about 35% in the next 20 years, rising from 1.6 billion in 2010 to 2.2 billion by 2030, according to new population projections by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life.

Globally, the Muslim population is forecast to grow at about twice the rate of the non-Muslim population over the next two decades — an average annual growth rate of 1.5% for Muslims, compared with 0.7% for non-Muslims. If current trends continue, Muslims will make up 26.4% of the world’s total projected population of 8.3 billion in 2030, up from 23.4% of the estimated 2010 world population of 6.9 billion.

Sub-Saharan Africa

• The Muslim population in sub-Saharan Africa is projected to grow by nearly 60% in the next 20 years, from 242.5 million in 2010 to 385.9 million in 2030. Because the region’s non- Muslim population also is growing at a rapid pace, Muslims are expected to make up only a slightly larger share of the region’s population in 2030 (31.0%) than they do in 2010 (29.6%).

• Various surveys give differing figures for the size of religious groups in Nigeria, which appears to have roughly equal numbers of Muslims and Christians in 2010. By 2030, Nigeria is expected to have a slight Muslim majority (51.5%).

Read the whole summary at

Full Report – PDF (11 MB)

Islam and Christianity in Africa (Pew Study)

The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life has just released a study on Religion in Africa

Download the full preface (5-page PDF, <1MB); Download the full executive summary (18-page PDF, 1MB) (in  French or Portugues)

In little more than a century, the religious landscape of sub-Saharan Africa has changed dramatically. As of 1900, both Muslims and Christians were relatively small minorities in the region. The vast majority of people practiced traditional African religions, while adherents of Christianity and Islam combined made up less than a quarter of the population, according to historical estimates from the World Religion Database.

Since then, however, the number of Muslims living between the Sahara Desert and the Cape of Good Hope has increased more than 20-fold, rising from an estimated 11 million in 1900 to approximately 234 million in 2010. The number of Christians has grown even faster, soaring almost 70-fold from about 7 million to 470 million. Sub-Saharan Africa now is home to about one-in-five of all the Christians in the world (21%) and more than one-in-seven of the world’s Muslims (15%).1

….While sub-Saharan Africa has almost twice as many Christians as Muslims, on the African continent as a whole the two faiths are roughly balanced, with 400 million to 500 million followers each. Since northern Africa is heavily Muslim and southern Africa is heavily Christian, the great meeting place is in the middle, a 4,000-mile swath from Somalia in the east to Senegal in the west.

….Despite the dominance of Christianity and Islam, traditional African religious beliefs and practices have not disappeared. Rather, they coexist with Islam and Christianity. Whether or not this entails some theological tension, it is a reality in people’s lives: Large numbers of Africans actively participate in Christianity or Islam yet also believe in witchcraft, evil spirits, sacrifices to ancestors, traditional religious healers, reincarnation and other elements of traditional African religions.2

Other Findings

In addition, the 19-nation survey finds:

  • Africans generally rank unemployment, crime and corruption as bigger problems than religious conflict. However, substantial numbers of people (including nearly six-in-ten Nigerians and Rwandans) say religious conflict is a very big problem in their country.
  • The degree of concern about religious conflict varies from country to country but tracks closely with the degree of concern about ethnic conflict in many countries, suggesting that they are often related.
  • Many Africans are concerned about religious extremism, including within their own faith. Indeed, many Muslims say they are more concerned about Muslim extremism than about Christian extremism, and Christians in four countries say they are more concerned about Christian extremism than about Muslim extremism.
  • Neither Christianity nor Islam is growing significantly in sub-Saharan Africa at the expense of the other; there is virtually no net change in either direction through religious switching.
  • At least half of all Christians in every country surveyed expect that Jesus will return to earth in their lifetime, while roughly 30% or more of Muslims expect to live to see the re-establishment of the caliphate, the golden age of Islamic rule.
  • People who say violence against civilians in defense of one’s religion is rarely or never justified vastly outnumber those who say it is sometimes or often justified. But substantial minorities (20% or more) in many countries say violence against civilians in defense of one’s religion is sometimes or often justified.
  • In most countries, at least half of Muslims say that women should not have the right to decide whether to wear a veil, saying instead that the decision should be up to society as a whole.
  • Circumcision of girls (female genital cutting) is highest in the predominantly Muslim countries of Mali and Djibouti but is more common among Christians than among Muslims in Uganda.
  • Majorities in almost every country say that Western music, movies and television have harmed morality in their nation. Yet majorities in most countries also say they personally like Western entertainment.
  • In most countries, more than half of Christians believe in the prosperity gospel – that God will grant wealth and good health to people who have enough faith.
  • By comparison with people in many other regions of the world, sub-Saharan Africans are much more optimistic that their lives will change for the better.

About the Report

These and other findings are discussed in more detail in the remainder of this report, which is divided into five main sections:

This report also includes a glossary of key terms, a description of the methods used for this survey, and a topline including full question wording and survey results.

HT: Roving Bandit — “Probably the best economics blog in Southern Sudan”

Obama’s speech in Cairo; appreciating a hopeful tone.

If you haven’t already seen or heard Obama’s nearly one-hour speech in Cairo, read the Full Transcript. (Or maybe I’ve been out of the media loop for too long and you are already sick of it.)

I admit that when I first heard he was going to give this speech, I cringed. There are too many ways that it could totally flop. I never should have underestimated him.

Saturday night, Christi and I sat in bed and read the whole transcript together. When we got to the end, the first thing she said was, “I sure am glad we elected that man as our president!!” Like everyone else, we have strong disagreements with some of his views, but here he was truly impressive (kudos to his speech team too). He said things in ways that few human being are capable or qualified to say. . . he gave me a glimmer of hopefulness on issues that have weighed heavily on my heart for a long time—things I have felt totally hopeless about. Granted, the realist in me knows that the political leaders that need to make this peace, prosperity, and freedom happen won’t (see Chomsky’s response); and the hatred is so deeply seated; but if we can even begin to set a different tone . . . for those of us in cross-cultural settings tone is critical. (I’m sure the media and spin meisters have already given this a totally different feel by now, and I know certain people can’t stand anything Obama says, but I thought the speech was a great step in the right direction. I appreciated that the speech sounded more like a conversation with Moslems (with courteous connections) than an ethnocentric discussion about them. If you haven’t already, read the full transcript for yourself and draw your own conclusions.

Of course, I’m reading this as an American Christian who has interacted with some Moslems in the past; I’ll be interested to see how more Moslem feel about it.

Here are a couple of responses:

“I like that Obama is here talking and listening. At least, I hope he is listening and not only talking,” . . .

“He is a beautiful speaker. He is eloquent. But the truth is we have heard this before. Can he really change America’s policies? Actions speak louder than words. And can Obama lead America to really take on those actions. We’ll see.”

On a somewhat different note, I couldn’t help thinking of some of the internal Christian conflicts when I read this.

Some are eager to stoke the flames of division, and to stand in the way of progress. Some suggest that it isn’t worth the effort – that we are fated to disagree, and civilizations [or theological perspectives] are doomed to clash. Many more are simply skeptical that real change can occur. There is so much fear, so much mistrust. But if we choose to be bound by the past, we will never move forward. And I want to particularly say this to young people of every faith, in every country – you, more than anyone, have the ability to remake this world.

All of us share this world for but a brief moment in time. The question is whether we spend that time focused on what pushes us apart, or whether we commit ourselves to an effort – a sustained effort – to find common ground, to focus on the future we seek for our children, and to respect the dignity of all human beings.

It is easier to start wars than to end them. It is easier to blame others than to look inward; to see what is different about someone than to find the things we share. But we should choose the right path, not just the easy path.

Secret to great wealth hidden in Obama’s Cairo speech; must read the whole transcript to piece together this amazing secret ;-).

Expert analysis and responses (Washington Post)

Some unsurprising responses at Strong Reactions (CT)

Islam according to Gallup

In CT has an interview with Dalia Mogahed about the book , Who Speaks For Islam? What a Billion Muslims Really Think (Gallup Press, 2008). The idea for the book was born shortly after 9/11, when Donald Rumsfeld was asked how Muslims felt about the attacks on the U.S. He replied, “I don’t know; it’s not like you can take a Gallup poll.” The survey covered 90 percent of the global Muslim population on, among other things, Muslims’ views of democracy, extremism, jihad, and women’s rights, and Americans’ views of Islam.

What surprised you most in your findings?

It was how much Americans and residents of majority-Muslim countries have in common. This flies in the face of conventional wisdom that paints a picture of an inherently conflict-ridden relationship. Americans are as likely, for example, as Iranians to say religious leaders should have no part in crafting a constitution. We found that 57 percent of Americans think the Bible should have at least some role in legislation. (Nine percent think it should be the sole source.) This is similar to many majority-Muslim countries where people don’t want theocracy and don’t favor religious leaders being in control, but they do want legislation informed by religious values.

Other questions:

  • What do Muslim women say about Shari’ah [Islamic law]?
  • What stereotypes does your book challenge?
  • “Extremists” and “radicals”
  • What do most Muslims think about apostates?
  • Don’t all four schools of Sunni Islamic law suggest that a Muslim who leaves Islam and embraces Christianity, for example, should be executed?

We have to look at modern interpretations, because Islamic law is a vibrant, ever-changing set of interpretations. Fiqh, or human interpretation of Shari’ah, maps changes with time and place. Look, for example, at Sheikh Ali Jumu’a, grand mufti of Egypt, whose interpretation of apostasy laws is not to take drastic measures. In the past, apostasy was seen as treason because citizenship in one group was defined by faith, and when people left one faith, they had to work against their community. One’s faith today is no longer seen in the same context, because the nation-state has been completely transformed.

  • How do you respond to conventional wisdom that says the Qur’an espouses violence?

. . . Violence is usually politically, not religiously, motivated. Third, terrorist sympathizers or the “cheering section”—the 7 percent who are politically radicalized—are no more religious than mainstream Muslims who abhor violence and say it is morally unjustified. Muslims are as likely as Americans to denounce attacks on civilians. Finally, people defending their position on 9/11—the 7 percent who think it’s completely justified—do so because of political and geopolitical perceptions, not theology. Not one referred to the Qur’an. . .

  • In Who Speaks for Islam? you suggest that the domestic terrorist Timothy McVeigh was a Christian. Why?
  • How should evangelicals respond to what seems to be the spread of extremist Islam globally?

Evangelicals should respond the way everyone should respond. Understanding the cause of the problem is important. The data clearly show it is driven not by religious extremism but by extreme political ideology. Second, as a human family, look at the extremists as an outside group, rather than as an outgrowth of religion. This builds bridges between people of different faiths all fighting a common enemy. Let’s not forget that Muslims are the primary victims of violent extremism. . . Third . . . Finally, evangelicals should vocally and unequivocally denounce anti-Muslim hate speech. . . . Hateful statements against what Muslims hold most dear are a gift to bin Laden and a slap to mainstream Muslims who. . .

Read the whole whole interview. Better yet, go to the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies where the following more detailed reports are available:

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A kinder, gentler Islam

I’m comfortable in a lot of different cultural settings, but I confess that I’m still a little uneasy in Moslem contexts. I’m not at all afraid for my safety; it’s just that I haven’t been in any Islamic contexts long enough to feel totally at ease about how not to be offensive. All the interactions I have had with followers of Quran have been very good, there just haven’t been that many. (I spent a week – mostly as a tourist – in Tunisia, but I recall longer conversations with with Moslem traders when I was in high school in West Africa)

On the flight from Nairobi to Dubai (back in August), I sat next to a delightful family man named Muhammad. Despite our very different religious beliefs, he and I share generally similar family orientations and geographical life histories. He was born in Uganda, did all his primary schooling in Kenya before moving to Canada for University. He also lived for a few years in the Washington, DC area (then Orlando, FL) before moving back to Mombassa (Kenya) where most of his family lives. He was talking to his kids on the phone about the way I would talk to mine. Even our accents are similar. Currently he works on documentaries aimed primarily at Americans to educate people about Islam and try to dispel some of the misconceptions it. Here is a website of his posters – Discover Islam.

Anyway, Mohammed seemed like such a nice guy that I took advantage of the time to ply him with all the difficult questions – Islam as a violent religion, jihad, view towards apostates, etc. One of the things that struck me about this his responses is that he encourages the same kind of hermeneutic that we often do with the Bible: “e.g., you have to carefully read the texts in their original context.” (Eventually, we tapped out all my questions and settled into the newly-released Caspian movie.)

On the flight back from London, I sat next to a Pakistani businessman (pharmaceuticals). As soon as he found out I was doing “research in religion,” he said, “the problem with Pakistan is that people don’t truly follow the Koran.” My mind immediately saw that meaning two completely opposite things, so I asked him what he meant. “Take for example alms,” he replied. “If we only followed the charge to give [I forget the percentage of income] as the Quran commands, there would be more money in circulation and our economies would be doing so much better. . .[Later] It’s those militants from Afghanistan who keep stirring up violence and killing people in our country.”

His English wasn’t that great, and I could hardly hold my eyes open (redeye flight; 3 hours sleep the previous night) so we didn’t talk that long, but I couldn’t help smiling to myself. How many times have I said, “If only Christians truly followed the Bible and Jesus . . . it’s those extremists that really spoil the name of Christians . . .”