Nearly half the world's migrants are Christians - Pew study

Published 14 March 2012  |  Stoyan Zaimov, The Christian Post
A new study by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life has revealed that Christians make up almost half of all the world's migrants, while Jewish people are by far the biggest migrants in terms of proportion.

The study, titled "Faith on the Move" and released last week, stands in contrast to Western fears that Muslims are coming in by waves and taking over Christian countries, Reuters suggested.

Of the world's 214 million people who have moved from their home country to live in another, about 106 million (49 per cent) are Christians while around 60 million (27 per cent) are Muslims. Jews made up for 3.6 million of those who have moved across international borders, but that accounts for close to 25 per cent of all Jewish people, the biggest proportion by far.

The study defined migrants as people living in another country in 2010 for over a year, and included in its estimations the number of illegal immigrants and long-term refugees living abroad.

Phillip Connor, the lead researcher for the PEW Faith on the Move study, explained to The Christian Post that it is a challenge to decipher all the factors that influence global migration rates.

"It may be partly a matter of geography – of where large numbers of Christians and Muslims live, and hence the opportunities for migration that they have. As I mentioned before, many experts on migration think that economics are the largest single driver of migration. And, for decades, the United States and Europe have been seen as beacons of economic opportunity, holding out hope to residents of neighbouring countries for better jobs and higher wages," Connor explained.

"For example, an estimated 12.4 million immigrants in the US are from Mexico, and they are overwhelmingly Christian. At the same time, nearly 3 million Muslim migrants have moved from Turkey, mostly to Western Europe. In big-picture terms – simplifying somewhat – Christians have become the most largest group of international migrants in large part because of movement from Latin America to the United States, as well as movement within continental Europe.

"Muslims have become the second largest group of international migrants in large part because of movement to Europe from Africa and Asia, as well as because of movement within sub-Saharan Africa and parts of the Asia-Pacific region."

The lead researcher added, "There are many other factors – such as family reunification, educational opportunities, armed conflicts, natural disasters and simply the ease (or difficulty) of entry into particular countries – that also play a role, not only individually but often in combination. So the motives for migration are complicated."

While the migrants came from many different backgrounds and countries, the majority of them settled in relatively few areas – North America, Europe, Australia and the Arab states of the Persian Gulf. The USA by far led the field in terms of immigration destinations – about one-in-five international migrants alive today (nearly 43 million, including unauthorised immigrants and people born in US territories, such as Puerto Rico and Guam) reside in the United States. Comparatively, only Russia and Germany exceed the 10 million mark.

Globally, the top country of origin for Christian migrants has been Mexico (more than 12 million). Other major sources of Christian migrants include Russia (more than 8 million) and Ukraine (about 5 million), mostly due to changing international borders following the collapse of the Soviet Union. The largest share of the world's Muslim migrants, on the other hand, came from Palestine (more than 5 million), followed by Pakistan, Bangladesh and India (more than 3 million each). The main sources of Jewish migrants are Russia (more than 700,000) and Ukraine (290,000).

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