Over at First Things, George Weigel reports on the latest findings of the International Bulletin of Missionary Research.
Some of the statistics are provocative, particularly those related to the number of martyrs:
"The provocation in the 2011 report involves martyrdom. For purposes of research, the report defines “martyrs” as “believers in Christ who have lost their lives, prematurely, in situations of witness, as a result of human hostility.” The report estimates that there were, on average, 270 new Christian martyrs every 24 hours over the past decade, such that “the number of martyrs [in the period 2000-2010] was approximately 1 million.” Compare this to an estimated 34,000 Christian martyrs in 1900."
This is stunning and seems unbelievable, and one wonders how well we (western Christians) really are mourning with those who mourn. Are we really bearing the burdens of our brothers and sisters suffering for the sake of the gospel? How can we stand with them?
Meanwhile, we continue to splinter: Weigel writes, "As for the quest for Christian unity: There were 1,600 Christian denominations in 1900; there were 18,800 in 1970; and there are 42,000 today."
But as God frequently does, for all the dividing there is growth. The report suggests an overall, worldwide growth in Christianity, but the growth of Christianity in Africa is the most astonishing:
"Africa has been the most stunning area of Christian growth over the past century. There were 8.7 million African Christians in 1900 (primarily in Egypt, Ethiopia and South Africa); there are 475 million African Christians today and their numbers are projected to reach 670 million by 2025."
You can read the whole article here.