The dramatic growth of Christianity in the “global south” and in Asia has created religious tensions and contributed to conflicts in a number of nations, including Nigeria, Kenya, Pakistan, and China.
The Christian population of sub-Saharan Africa has ballooned from 9% to 63% over the past century, according to The Economist. There are now 2.2 billion adherents to Christianity across the globe.
The Economist reports on one side of the conflicts over the growth of Christianity, examining violence through the lens of persecution in an article (unsurprisingly) entitled “Christians and Lions.” The article highlights the recent attacks on Christians in Nigeria, the violence against Christians in Iraq, and the prosecutions of Christian converts in Iran and Pakistan. Unfortunately, the article argues that “there is a specific problem with Islam,” instead of seriously exploring the broader and comparative contexts of religious violence today. One-sided views of religious violence that portray conflicts as resulting from “persecution” are simplistic, ignoring the dynamics of religious changes. The Economist also treats religion as an additive rather than a fundamental aspect of culture, asserting that “Once religion is involved, any conflict becomes harder to solve.”
In the article, The Economist makes an explicit comparison to the European Wars of Religion of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries: “Compared both with the wars of religion that once tore Christendom apart and with various modern intra-faith struggles, such as those within Islam, little blood is being spilt. But the brutality matters.” NIU students in HIST 414 European Wars of Religion, 1520-1660 will be interested in this story.
For a broader view on the global expansion of Christianity and religious conflict, see the Pew Forum on Faith and Conflict and the Pew Forum on Christianity and Conflict in Latin America.