Melbourne's Age newspaper today quotes Patrick Sookhdeo of the Barnabas Fund, an aid group for persecuted Christian minorities, estimating that 40 million Christians live under Muslim majorities. This number ranges from 15 million in Indonesia, 9 million in Egypt, and 3 million in Pakistan to just a few dozen individuals in the Maldives. These Christians increasingly find themselves, Sookhdeo notes, an embattled minority with dwindling rights, trapped in poverty and uncertainty, despised and distrusted second-class citizens, facing discrimination in education, jobs and from the police and courts. As circumstances steadily worsen, Christians are packing and leaving their ancestral lands to find a more hospitable environment in the West.
This dismal picture makes for a striking contrast with the Muslim minority now living in the West, particularly given that this population of under 20 million mostly consists of immigrants. It is increasingly an established minority, is gaining new rights, enjoys affluence and protections, is accepted as full citizens with all rights, and is winning new prerogatives in schools, the workplace, and the legal system. Put another way, as churches are coming down in Muslim countries, mosques are going up in Christian ones.
Many factors account for these opposite trends, but one thing, based on nearly 1,400 years of Christian-Muslim relations, can be predicted with confidence: this contrast has profound consequences. (November 7, 2003)
Dec. 30, 2003 update: Indeed, the Catholic Church is increasingly ready to speak out on this disequilibrium. Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, formerly the Vatican's equivalent of foreign minister, told the French publication La Croix that Christianity and Islam faced "an enormous task" of learning to live together in mutual tolerance. "There are too many majority Muslim countries where non-Muslims are second-class citizens." Stressing the need for respect for minorities, he singled out "the extreme case of Saudi Arabia, where freedom of religion is violated absolutely—no Christian churches and a ban on celebrating Mass, even in a private home. Just like Muslims can build their houses of prayer anywhere in the world, the faithful of other religions should be able to do so as well."
Mar. 30, 2004 update: In an interesting sidelight on existing double standards, the Arab Labor Organization today warned, as reported by the Syrian Arab News Agency,
against a plan that would grant the rights of citizenship to 18 million non-Arab laborers working temporarily in the Arab states, finding that such a plan would have many effects, not only on the population makeup of the Arabic countries but also on the economic and social conditions in them.
(My translation from the Arabic.)
This resistance to enfranchising non-Arab immigrant workers contrasts starkly with Arab demands for enfranchisement when Arabs are the immigrant workers.
Mar. 3, 2011 update: Raymond Ibrahim pursues this theme today at "Mosques Flourish in America; Churches Perish in Muslim World."