A “global census” of Muslims who have become Christians estimates that the largest numbers are found in Asia, followed by Africa and North America, and totaling nearly 10 million. The census was conducted by Duane Alexander Miller and Patrick Johnstone and is published in the current issue of The Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion (Vol. 11, No. 10). The authors acknowledge their figures are far from precise, especially because so many conversions in Muslim societies take place secretly for fear of punishment. Miller and Johnstone collected data from published sources and missionary reports, finding most of the converts among evangelicals but also among pockets of Catholics and Eastern Orthodox, as well as those converts claiming to be both Muslim and Christian. They note that in 1960, there were less than 200,000 Muslim converts to Christianity worldwide — a figure far less than the numbers estimated in most single continents. In Asia, there are 6,968,500 converts, followed by Africa (2,161,000), North America (493,000), the Arab world (483,000) and Europe (147,800). Iran seems to be the single country.
Believers who identify as both Muslim and Christian have long courted controversy and criticism among other Christians, and are subject to discrimination and persecution in the Islamic community. Being “social insiders,” that is, accepted by the Muslim community, while being “theological outsiders,” thus Christian in belief, is difficult to accomplish and not widely accepted even among Muslim converts to Christianity, writes Fred Farrokh in the current issue of the International Journal of Frontier Missiology (32.2). Farrokh cites his own and other recent research on the SITO phenomenon (social insider/theological outsider) among Christians from Muslim backgrounds and Muslims in several countries, including the U.S., and finds a wide range of responses on whether such dual-identification is possible or desirable.
Most of the findings (based on interviews) suggest that these Muslim-background Christians are orthodox in their belief in Christ, but show more variation regarding whether they accept Muhammad as a prophet or still attend mosques. Those who are strongly involved in “insider” networks are more favorable toward practicing their faith within mosques; one group has even withdrawn from the regular mosque and started their own Sufi-style mosque. In Farrokh’s own research of 20 Muslims and 20 Muslim-background Christians in the New York area, he found strong resistance to the SITO approach. It will not likely be tolerated by the Muslim community, which makes it “likely, at least in the near future, that Muslim background believers in Christ will continue to endure some forms of social ostracism.” An exception may be in places like Iran, where Muslims “are collectively beginning to reject the role of Muhammad as life’s ultimate guide. This may open a different door for those who become theological outsiders to remain social insiders.”
(Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion, http://www.religjournal.com/articles; International Journal of Frontier Missiology, http://www.ijfm.org/)