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People and Their Religions on the Move: Challenge and opportunities of international migration

Author: Gina A. Bellofatto
Date: 28.11.2012
Category: Diasporas

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Originally Posted in English

This article is a part of the November 2012 issue of the Lausanne Global Analysis. Access other articles from this issue or download the full issue as a free PDF download.

People all over the world are on the move, bringing with them unique languages, cultures, and worldviews. As more people cross international borders with relative ease, it becomes increasingly important to know who these migrants are and how their religious identities

and practices influence the communities in which they settle. In some cases, migrants bring a new religion into a country or region; alternatively, they might import a new form of an existing religion.

In light of current migration trends, migrant groups likely will continue to transform the religious landscape of the world’s countries well into the twenty-first century.

Two analyses of the religious profiles of international migrants have been published recently: one by the Center for the Study of Global Christianity (“the Center”) at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (South Hamilton, Massachusetts),1 and the other by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life (“Pew”; Washington, DC). 2 These reports are the first to consider all migrant groups worldwide and their religious affiliations.

Center for the Study of Global Christianity’s Report

The Center’s report focuses on “religious diasporas”.3 It uses the taxonomies of religions and peoples found in the World Christian Database (WCD)4 and World Religion Database (WRD)5 , and data from both religious communities themselves and censuses taken by governments. The WCD and WRD employ 18 categories7 for religion.

The study reports that, in mid-2010, 859 million people from 327 people groups were living in diaspora, or 12.5% of the global population (Table 1). Nearly half of these were Christians (47.4%), and a quarter were Muslims (25.4%). One of the key findings is that, together,

Christians and Muslims make up 55.3% of the world’s population, but 72.8% of all people in diaspora.

Table 1: Religionists in diaspora, mid-2010

Mexico, Bangladesh, and Argentina are the top three “sending” countries of international migrants (Table 2). Mexico sent the most Christian migrants, the majority settling in the United States. Bangladesh is the leading sending country of both Hindus and Muslims, many of whom are found across India as migrants post-partition. Of the ten largest sending countries, three are in Latin America and five in Asia.

Table 2: Top 10 “sending” countries, ranked by size of diaspora outside of host country, mid-2010

The United States hosts the most total migrants (Table 3). India ranks second, hosting significantly more Muslims than the United States. Together these two nations host nearly a quarter of all diasporas worldwide. Of the ten largest host countries, four are in Asia and five in Latin America.

Table 3: Top 10 host countries of diasporas ranked by diaspora population, mid-2010

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Keywords: Diasporas, LGA

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PhContributeBy
Reply Flag 0 Thumbs Up Thumbs Down sbrigg02111 (0)
United States

I think it is funny how history repeats itself. When the migration of immigrants was occurring in the early 1900s, they were leaving their homelands for the same sort of oppressions they are facing today. They were coming to America to experience the “American Dream.” In the same vein, immigrants are coming to American in hopes of a better life. I find this ironic because I feel that we American do not have our stuff together. It’s just one big, crazy cycle.


28.04.2014
PhContributeBy
Reply Flag 0 Thumbs Up Thumbs Down TCoker (1)
United States

This article is packed with great information and resources. It definitely proves that people are on the move. There are so many Diasporas in my own “back yard” that I can minister to. I think this is a great opportunity for churches to get involved in. At the same time, it will take a change in mindset for many who see missions as a “going” experience. Yes, we still need to go but many have come to us, so what are we going to do about it? Are we going to ignore that they are there or are we going to embrace them?


20.04.2014
PhContributeBy
Reply Flag 0 Thumbs Up Thumbs Down PastorSteve (1)
United States
@ TCoker:

Isn’t it interesting? There actually seems to be two dynamics at play here. One, as you note, is that the missionary world is coming to the doorsteps of countries that historically were sending countries. As you said, this clearly notes a need to refocus some of our missionary resources to our own backyards.


The statistics also noted the percentage of people migrating to other areas ... and that Christians and Muslims were a disproportionate share of that movement. "Pew’s method enumerated 214 million international migrants as of 2010, or 3% of the global population. Nearly half (49%) were Christians, and over a quarter (27%) were Muslims. Like that of the Center, the report notes that Christians are overrepresented among migrants (about 50%) compared to the general population (about 33%)." Similar to the forced diaspora of the Jews and the story of Jonah, I wonder if Christians are being moved in order to provide a greater witness? If so, how does one equip those on the move for a missionary presence, formal or informal, in their diaspora? This would seem like a monumentous task ... but it could be extremely effective and efficient!


And what does the disproportionate number of Muslims on the move mean for missionary work for the kingdom???


26.04.2014
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Reply Flag 0 Thumbs Up Thumbs Down HLMissionary (1)
United States

I appreciated the statistical information presented. And I note the additional measures needed to present the numbers story of global diaspora more accurately.

As technological advances of the late 20th and early 21st century have created a "global apartment building," we humans need to learn more about each other re: faith beliefs and pressing human needs. The call for Christian hospitality is indeed a simple, but powerful avenue for participating in the evangelism that Christianity is meant to be.


08.10.2013
PhContributeBy
Reply Flag 0 Thumbs Up Thumbs Down Daniel_Bianchi (1)  
Argentina

Gina,

Thank you for your article about Diaspora.

However, let me gently call your attention about the statics of Argentina, being myself a mission leader and a pastor in Argentina.

You said that Argentina is one of the top “sending” countries of International migrants.  I am hearing you saying that this means that Argentina is one of the countries that have more argentines living outside of Argentina? (Please correct me if I am mistaking in my interpretation).

My second concern. I checked the figures given for Argentina in:  ‘Table 2: Ten top “sending” countries…’. I was amazed to see that Argentina is reported with 68,156,000 under Diaspora (I supposed this means million of people),  and  even more surprised to read: 60,574,000 Christians. Well, in true fact, the population of Argentina is 40,117,096 (Census 2010). The estimated number of evangelical Christians is slightly less than 10% of the population.

Since English is not my first language, I realized that may be something else that I don’t quite understand with this statics.

I will appreciate your clarification.

Daniel Bianchi, Buenos Aires, Argentina


27.06.2013
PhContributeBy
Reply Flag 0 Thumbs Up Thumbs Down gbell (0)
United States
@ Daniel_Bianchi:

Thanks for your attention to this article and careful consideration of the data.

Because of length limitations, one important footnote was left out of this article that is pertinent for Argentina:

“One clear limitation of this method is how it treats Mestizos in Latin America. Because ethnolinguistic codes are not differentiated by dialect, Mestizos all across Latin America are treated as one people, even though they are clearly distinct from country to country. Because Mexico has the largest number of Mestizos, it is treated as the home country and all other Mestizos are considered diasporas. To fix this anomaly, one would have to utilize dialect codes to differentiate peoples. Unfortunately, this would artificially create new peoples where there are no significant differences.”

That is to say that the majority of the inconsistencies in the Argentina figures are because of the methodology employed. We have plans to revisit the data used in this article to make improvements and updates.


This is a somehwat complicated issue, but I hope this helps clarify.


Thank you,
Gina 


15.08.2013
PhContributeBy
Reply Flag 0 Thumbs Up Thumbs Down ajlt34 (2)
United States

This is a very interesting article.  My family has adopted (through love and support) a family that fled Cambodia.  They have been a part of our lives for over 20 years.  They claim to be Buddhist but we are introducing their seven year old son to Christianity.  The family will come to church to hear their son sing in the children’s choir and we show them the love of Christ through our actions but none of their family has accepted Christ.  We pray that one day their hearts will be changed and they will recognize that we love them with the love of Christ.   Families that relocate need to have support and love.  Christians have the greatest love of all to share but if we don’t meet the emotional and physical needs then I feel we will never each them with the love of Christ.


12.03.2013
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Reply Flag 0 Thumbs Up Thumbs Down ki_ki2013 (2)
United States
@ ajlt34: I agree. Often times we have our own agendas and we meet the basic needs of people. It is often said, that people don’t care how much you know until you show how much you care. I wonder how different things would be if we would just simply strive to meet the needs. And trust God to do the work through the meeting of the needs.
24.03.2013
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Reply Flag 0 Thumbs Up Thumbs Down moviepastor (2)
United States

The number of people, mentioned in these study, who are in diaspora, is staggering. I wonder how the local church is doing in preparing believers in Jesus to carry and spread their faith as a potential diaspora. I also wonder how our local church can reach out and authentically connect with (build relationships with) the diaspora in our area.  


20.02.2013
PhContributeBy
Reply Flag 0 Thumbs Up Thumbs Down soulsearcher1022 (4)
United States

These are powerful statistics that could be very helpful in supplementing a diaspora missions sector in a local church. Great article!


07.12.2012
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Reply Flag 0 Thumbs Up Thumbs Down corenfa (0)
United States
@ soulsearcher1022:

I agree.  Too often we overlook the tools at our disposal to help clarify our ministry plan.


07.12.2012
PhContributeBy
Reply Flag 0 Thumbs Up Thumbs Down brother_edward (1)
United States

What I can see buy this article is that we, the church, have a lot of oportunities to preach the gospel of our Lord Crhist, and pray that many of these new brother and sister could came to their own people to share the good news with them. Just like Jesus said to someone He healed, "Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you"


05.12.2012
PhContributeBy
Reply Flag 0 Thumbs Up Thumbs Down soulsearcher1022 (4)
United States
@ brother_edward:

Great point. Jesus commanded us to take the healing we’ve received and share this Good News with others. 


07.12.2012
PhContributeBy
Reply Flag 0 Thumbs Up Thumbs Down corenfa (0)
United States
@ brother_edward:

Making disciples that will go back into the world is a huge responsibility and priviledge.  The harvest in indeed plentiful!


07.12.2012
PhContributeBy
Reply Flag 0 Thumbs Up Thumbs Down corenfa (0)
United States

Science is so powerful!  This information is so useful in targeting ministry and service!  Thanks for the article!


07.12.2012
PhContributeBy
Reply Flag 0 Thumbs Up Thumbs Down Cody_Lorance (13)   
United States

Wow, excellent and important article! The note about counting diasporas is an important one.  At the GDN, we’ve been using the "international migrant" method and the lower 214-16 million figure. The higher number seems less certain.  However, it is true that settled diasporas must be considered in our diaspora mission efforts.  So, I am interested to know exactly how they arrived at the 800+ million figure. 

The insights on how to move forward and to equip host nation Christians is also helpful.  Will be referring to this article in my work.  Thanks for sharing.


29.11.2012
PhContributeBy
Reply Flag 0 Thumbs Up Thumbs Down soulsearcher1022 (4)
United States
@ Cody_Lorance:

Yes, this article provides a significant amount of excellent statistics. I likewise will be referencing this in future endeavors with my church. Good luck, fellow brother in Christ!


07.12.2012

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