WASHINGTON (BP) -- Christianity has grown into a global faith in the last century, moving from a predominantly European, North and South American religion to one that is now practiced in large numbers on every continent, particularly Africa and Asia.
During the past 100 years, Sub-Saharan Africa’s share of the world's Christian population has grown from 1.4 percent to 23.6 percent, while the Asia-Pacific region has grown from 4.5 percent to 13.1 percent.
That 100-year view is one of the major findings of a new report from the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, which compares the worldwide Christian population of 2010 to that of 1910.
"Clearly, Christianity has spread far from its historical origins," the 130-page report says. The report used a broad definition for Christianity and was based on census reports and population surveys.
In 1910, Europe had 66.3 percent of the world's Christian population and North and South America had 27.1 percent. Today, Europe's share of the Christian population is only 25.9 percent and the Americas is 36.8 percent. During that century, Sub-Saharan Africa’s share of the world's Christian population has grown from 1.4 percent to 23.6 percent, while the Asia-Pacific region has grown from 4.5 percent to 13.1 percent. At the same time, the Middle East-North Africa region has seen a slight decline in its worldwide share (.7 to .6 percent).
Jim Haney, director of global research for the Southern Baptist Convention's International Mission Board, says the Pew numbers are "consistent with IMB's global research effort," although the IMB's global research is "more focused on evangelical Christianity" as reported by missionaries and evangelical partners.
Christianity, Pew says, remains the world's largest religion "by far" and has seen the number of adherents nearly quadruple in the last century, yet its growth -- as a portion of the population -- has not kept pace with worldwide population. In 1910 there were about 611 million Christians, making up 35 percent of the world's population of 1.75 billion. Today, there are 2.2 billion Christians, which comprise 32 percent of the world's 7 billion people.
Pew's broad definition of Christianity includes Catholics and Protestants as well as Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses, although the latter two make up only a small percentage of the total population. Pew says Catholics comprise 50.1 percent of the world's Christian population, Protestants 36.7 percent, Orthodox 11.9 percent ... Read More