Migration patterns--a world on the move
In 2002 Philip Jenkins wrote an eye-opening book entitled The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity. With an eye for trends and patterns Jenkins writes about the great global migrations taking place in our world today that are fueled by economic, geographic and political forces. These migrations are creating a de facto ethnic and cultural integration that will not be reversed. The first migration is from the rural areas to the cities--urbanization. Urbanization refers to a process in which an increasing proportion of an entire population lives in cities and the suburbs of cities. Fueled by a desire for better jobs, people are coming to the cities of the world looking for better opportunities. In China for instance, with the move towards a capital-driven economy, between 90 to 300 million people have moved from the hinterland into the bourgeoning cities of China. These are numbers “even at the low end match the entire workforce of the United States.”[i] This is the largest migration in human history. “China has between 100 and 160 cities with populations of 1 million or more (America by contrast has nine).”[ii]
Roughly one half of the world’s population now lives in cities. The implications for the church are mind-boggling. Evangelistic strategies that were effective in rural areas fall on deaf ears and blind eyes with city dwellers. Jenkins writes, “In 1900, all the world’s largest cities were located in either Europe or North America…Today, only three of the world’s ten largest urban areas can be found in traditionally advanced countries, namely Tokyo, New York City, and Los Angeles…. Currently, 80 percent of the world’s larges urban conglomerations are located in either Asia or Latin America…”[iii] Jenkins continues, “Rich pickings await any religious groups who can meet these needs of these new urbanites, anyone who can at once feed the body and nourish the soul. Will the harvest fall to Christians of Muslims?”[iv] God has localized the Great Commission by bringing the nations to the cities of the world.
The second migration is people from the South moving to the North in all parts of the globe. This migration is again being fueled by the abundance of jobs accompanied by a shortage of workers in the North. Jenkins notes that “western Europe has between 10 million and 20 million illegal immigrants from Africa and Asia, over and above the legally settled communities.”[v] Jenkins introduces a twist of irony that “the empires have struck back.”[vi] Citizens of an empire where “the sun never set” are returning to England in droves. “About half of London’s people are now non-White and by the end of the twenty-first century, Whites will form a minority within Great Britain as a whole.”[vii] With its declining population, “the French government argued that Europe would have no alternative but to admit 75 million immigrants over the coming half-century”[viii] to fill jobs and pay for social services of existing and aging residents. What immigrant population do we need to sustain our economy?
Even as we tighten our borders in the US, America already bulges with immigrants. The “ends of the earth” have settled in our “Jerusalems.” For example, within the boroughs of New York “is a Dominican City of 500,000, a West Indian city of 800,000, a Haitian city of 200,000 in Queens, two Chinatowns of over 100,000, 80,000 Greeks, 200,000 Jews, 40,000 Hindus, 150,000 Arabs and Middle Easterners.”[ix] Nearly every community in the US has experienced an influx of immigrants from Latin America, Asia, Eastern Europe and Africa. With immigration, the tension between assimilation and maintaining cultural identity has fueled debates in school districts and board rooms. In March 2006 we witnessed Latino immigrants, mostly Mexican, and their supporters taking to the streets and public squares demanding the right to legal status while at the same time rhetoric abounded around closing borders and building higher barriers to fence out our southern neighbors. With diverse cultures come new norms that call for new levels of diversity and tolerance. Whether your metaphor is melting pot or tossed salad, the blending of America is here to stay. Will the church be prepared?
[i] Fishman, Ted, China Inc. Simon and Schuster, New York, (2005), p.7
[ii] Fishman, Ted, China Inc. Simon and Schuster, New York, (2005), p.7
[iii] Jenkins, Philip, The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity, Oxford University Press (2002) P.93
[iv] Jenkins, Philip, The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity, Oxford University Press (2002) P.94
[v] Jenkins, Philip, The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity, Oxford University Press (2002) P. 97
[vi] Jenkins, Philip, The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity, Oxford University Press (2002) P. 96
[vii] Jenkins, Philip, The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity, Oxford University Press (2002) P. 96
[viii] Jenkins, Philip, The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity, Oxford University Press (2002) P. 97
[ix] Christensen, Larry E. in the forward to a reprint of Christianity Today’s article New York’s Hope by Tony Carnes, December 2004