(JewishIdeasDaily) On a sun-drenched day during the week before Christmas, Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre was crowded with pilgrims from Nigeria. They were taking turns kneeling and praying at a marker on the spot where, sacred history has it, Jesus was crucified, entombed, and resurrected. (Other Christians consider the holy place to be the nearby Garden Tomb.) Back in Nigeria on Christmas Day, a wave of murderous bombings by Muslim extremists hit several churches. Plainly, the Christian faith is at once thriving and struggling. Global Christianity, a new report from the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, describes and measures both phenomena.
Jews have more than a passing interest in the state of Christianity, not only because of Christianity’s origins in Judaism and fraught relationship with Jews but also because nowadays, many believing Christians consider themselves friends of the Jewish people and Israel. Consider, for instance, the fact that growing numbers of Hispanic-Americans are embracing an Israel-friendly evangelical Christianity. Note the fact that Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, hopes to visit several African countries with substantial Christian populations in the coming months.
Given the trends in Muslim civilization, it matters to Jews that there are more Christians than Muslims in the world and that Christians make up about the same portion of the global population today—32 percent—as they did a century ago.