With the Christmas season underway, a new study finds that the Christian percentage of the world's population has remained fairly steady over the last century, but its distribution has changed dramatically, with just 25% now found in Europe, a slightly higher percentage than in sub-Saharan Africa.
The study by the Washington-based Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life found that there are 2.18 billion Christians in the world, about one-third of the estimated 6.9 billion global population. About 37% of those Christians are in the Western Hemisphere.
In 1910, about two-thirds of Christians lived in Europe, where the majority had resided for a millennium. But as Christianity has grown in other parts of the world, the population has seen a shift. The Christian percentage of the population in sub-Saharan Africa rose from 9% in 1910 to 63% in 2010 and in the Asia-Pacific region it went from 3% to 7%. This includes China, where the researchers estimate 5% of the population is Christian, mostly Protestant or Catholic.
The lowest concentration of Christians is found in the regions where the faith began: the Middle East and North Africa, where Christians are about 4% of the population.
The analysis, "Global Christianity: A Report on the Size and Distribution of the World's Christian Population," is available on the group's website.
-- Raja Abdulrahim in Los Angeles
Photo: A Christian pilgrim lights a candle in the Church of Nativity, believed by many to be the birthplace of Jesus Christ, in the West Bank town of Bethlehem on Monday. The Middle East and North Africa have the lowest concentration of Christians in the world, according to a new study by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. Credit: Abed al Hashlamoun / European Pressphoto Agency