There is news from the Vatican that the number of Islamic faithful in the world has surpassed the number of practicing Catholics for he first time in history. According to the Vatican yearbook of statistics, the number of the worlds population that are Muslims is 19.2%, with the number of Catholics trailing behind at 17.4 %. The Holy See’s notes the reason for such a rise in Islamic followers is due to the increased birth rate in Islamic countries.

Regardless of the reason for the increase, the campaign by Benedict XVI to intensify a dialogue between Islam and Christianity takes on a new significance after the release of this information. While there are some observers that report the Islamic rate of conversion is slowing, the prolific birthrate of “cradle Moslems,” requires an entirely new Catholic evangelization of Islamic adults to ensure future Catholic stability in these areas of the world. Benedict XVI recently has indicated the true need of all Catholic believers to more strongly integrate the Catholic principles and lifestyle into a strong global presence. Obviously, with the increasing number of Islamic believers Catholic evangelization among Islamic countries needs strong attention, with a concentrated effort to stabilize and maintain already existing Catholics in their faith.

The announcement of these demographic figures comes at a time when a relationship between Islamic and Catholic faiths is on the precipice of a new emerging global relationship. Most clearly, over a billion followers of Christianity constitute a large presence of Catholic believers in the world. The same over one billion Moslems that follow the precepts of the monotheistic based Islam are not only appropriate candidates for Catholic evangelization, but also theological competitors for religious membership. One point the Catholic Church needs to make obviously clear is that the Catholic faith, like Islam is seeking to convert believers to the faith of Jesus Christ. Critically present in our conversion and evangelization methods is the Gospel teachings of love of God, love of neighbor and love of self. So far, the Islamic method of religious conversion has spread throughout the world through militant and violent social and political unrest that has no tolerance for Catholic or other religions. With this in mind, the Catholic Church’s theological destination is the emergence of a new religious Kingdom of God, based on religious and social harmony. Islam by accounts of its past and present activities seems committed to evangelization by fear, violence and intimidation.

The world’s religions, competitive ideologies and lifestyles all offer believers an avenue to worship God freely with a religious conviction of choice. Catholics need to appreciate and understand the complex dimensions that are inherent among all of the world’s religions. That statement works the same for other religions as well in their relationships with Christianity. Methodology and practical applications of religious beliefs cannot be motivated by violence, turmoil and social injustices. We are in the midst of a shifting global religious consciousness with the increased spread of Islam. Catholics should view this as an opportunity to spread our religious convictions through Catholic examples of Gospel love and social integration. If we continue the correct applications of the teachings of the Church through actions and sacraments, Catholic presence in the world will surpass and draw Islamic converts back to the true faith of Christ.

Hugh McNichol is a freelance Catholic author that writes on religious topics and issues. He writes daily @ & .

His articles also appear in Irish Catholic, Dublin and daily at , the column is “Nothing Left Unsaid!”

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