Christmas 2012: The Flowering of Middle Eastern Christianity: Facts & Data

Below you’ll find some interesting updated facts and data concerning Christianity and Christians in the Middle East


There are more Middle Eastern Christians than ever before….In fact, despite all the hype about the rise of Islam in Europe, Muslims in that continent have on the whole much less potential influence than Christians in the Middle East.

About 5% of the French electorate is Muslims, the largest proportion in Europe. But Christians are 10 percent of Egypt, Jordan and Syria, and 22 percent of Lebanon. Even in Israel, they are 2 percent of the population, a little less than the percentage of contemporary Italy that is Muslim.

Among the biggest dangers to Middle Eastern Christians in 2012 were these:

1. Israeli occupation has made life in East Jerusalem and the West Bank increasingly unbearable, spurring emigration abroad of Palestinian Christians, who once made up 10 to 20 percent of the Palestinian population. Because they are Christians, these Palestinians may find it easier to get visas to the West.

2. The Syrian civil war has displaced or endangered many Syrian Christians, who make up between 10 and 14 percent of the 22-million strong Syrian population. At the upper estimates, there are as many as three million Syrian Christians. There are allegations that Christians have been targeted by hard line fundamentalist militias, but most probably suffer from the same difficulties other Syrians are facing.

3. Iraqi Christian expatriates in Syria are also in trouble. Before George W. Bush invaded Iraq, there were about 800,000 Christians in a population of 25 million, or 3 percent of the population. Some 400,000 are said to have emigrated, mainly to Syria (and about 10,000 to Lebanon), as refugees. But now many of those who went to Syria are returning to Iraq. Inside Iraq itself, some Christians say the situation has improved for them to the point that they are committed to staying in the country rather than emigrating.

4. The newly enacted fundamentalist constitution in Egypt and the power of the Muslim Brotherhood president, Muhammad Morsi, poses dangers to Egyptian Christians. It is alleged that hard line Salafis attempted to intimidate them from voting against the constitution in this month’s referendum. On the other hand, Egyptian Christians have clearly been invigorated by the new press and political freedoms in post-Mubarak Egypt, and are gaining an important set of political voices.

5. In the new country of South Sudan, Christians form between 10% and 50% of the 8 million population (the Catholic Church and the Anglican Church each claim about 2 million believers in that country. Christians in the region may thus have gained a great deal of influence in a whole new state. Earlier estimates from the mid-20th century of only 10% Christian are probably out of date and do not take account of the large number of conversions since then). The challenges here are enormous, though. The partition of Sudan has not in fact led to social peace between the two, with continued confrontation over oil exports and saber rattling. (Sudan is inarguably in the Middle East, and I have hung around with South Sudanese and was surprised how many spoke Bedouin Arabic).

6. Christians are about 60% of the 6 million-strong population of Eritrea. They are Coptic Orthodox, the same as most Egyptian Christians. (Eritrea is not usually counted in as being part of the Middle East, but it was ruled by the Ottoman Empire and has substantial cultural and political relations with Yemen and Saudi Arabia, so it is as eligible as Sudan and Somalia). Eritreans suffer under authoritarian government and continued tensions with Ethiopia.

Christians in Iraq and Syria have faced challenges (as have the entire populations of those two countries) in the past year. Christians in Egypt are alarmed by the new political muscle of the Muslim Brotherhood. It would be easy to construct a ‘vale of tears’ kind of narrative of Middle Eastern Christianity in decline, since the communities face political turmoil. It is often alleged that the proportion of Christians in the region has declined, though it is not clear that this allegation is true on a regional basis.

This argument from a declining proportion of the population does not take account of the region’s amazing population growth. It also makes analogies from the small nations of Lebanon and Palestine, which actually have an unusual demographic profile.

It is controversial what proportion of Egypt is Christian, but it is probably around 10 percent. A lot of Christians live in rural areas where census takers may not have gotten a complete count. Egypt’s population is 83 million, so that would give 8.3 million Christians. There is no reason to think that their proportion in Egypt has declined.

More Here: Christmas 2012: The Flowering of Middle Eastern Christianity and the Challenges it Faces



4 comments on “Christmas 2012: The Flowering of Middle Eastern Christianity: Facts & Data

  1. Hi PJ. I’m glad you posted this. It’s good to be reminded of the Church’s vitality in a part of the world that has been so demonized (especially in the last decade). The author also could have said quite a bit more about the growth of the Church in Iran, perhaps the most demonized nation of all.

    Looking at another facet of the Church’s relationship with the Middle East, God has seen fit to increasingly bring the Middle East into western nations where professing Christians make up a higher ratio of the population. As Ray Bakke (professor of Global Urban Studies at Bakke Graduate University in Seattle), points out, for example, there are now more than 250,000 Arabs, Chaldeans, and Iraqis living in just the Dearborn, Michigan area. Fascinating…

    • Hi Adam, a belated Merry Christmas to you and your family! 🙂

      This is fascinating. Anytime i come across data concerning the growth and continued strength of the Church in the middle east, it brings such joy. We hear so little about this in the west…or i should say what we “do” hear is always so negative. Yes, i also would have liked to read more recent news about the Church in Iran. The most recent article i found and posted was the one from Open Doors ministry back in March (Open Doors: Growth of Christianity in Iran ‘Explosive’)

      Looking at another facet of the Church’s relationship with the Middle East, God has seen fit to increasingly bring the Middle East into western nations where professing Christians make up a higher ratio of the population. As Ray Bakke (professor of Global Urban Studies at Bakke Graduate University in Seattle), points out, for example, there are now more than 250,000 Arabs, Chaldeans, and Iraqis living in just the Dearborn, Michigan area

      That IS amazing! But i wonder, is the Church here prepared? I ask because those arriving here in America from the middle east have been and are still being demonized. Instead of seeing this influx as a wonderful opportunity given to us by God to take the gospel to our new neighbors and “live” the gospel message in front of them, so many within the western Church seem to fear these potential brothers and sisters.

      Thank you so much for that information Adam. For it shows us we need to pray more diligently. Not only for those arriving here from the middle east but for the western Church….especially in Michigan.

  2. A belated Merry Christmas to you as well, PJ. I remember your encouraging post in March from Open Doors about Iran. Reports like that increase my joy too.

    Many in the American Church sure don’t seem prepared for what God is doing by bringing the nations to our doorstep (some don’t even appear to acknowledge that God is doing this).. It’s indeed a wonderful opportunity for the expansion of the gospel, like you said, but the reaction is too often a crippling fear. There is a remnant, of course, that God has been preparing to live out the gospel among these newcomers. Thankfully, I’ve been able to see that where I live.

    The statistic I cited about the Dearborn, Michigan area is from a Moody Radio address given by Ray Bakke around Thanksgiving time last year. He shared a lot of other fascinating information in that address. If you’re interested, I summarized his address in this post (links to his audio series are included):


    • Thanks for the link Adam. I seem to recall that audio at your blog, but will check it out and see if its the same one i read and listened to.

      Adam its good to hear you’re witnessing the remnant reacting in such a positive Godly manner. We all need to hear these type of good reports more often little brother!! Our enemy does nothing but feed Christ’s body negative ‘slop’ day after day in the hope of completely discouraging us all. I truly believe that.

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