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A Profile of the Bahá'í Faith and its Worldwide Community

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bullet.gif (837 bytes) The Bahá'ís
bullet.gif (837 bytes) Unity in Diversity
bullet.gif (837 bytes) Bahá'u'lláh
bullet1.gif (837 bytes) Social and Moral
Teachings
bullet1.gif (837 bytes) Spiritual Beliefs of
the Bahá'í Faith
bullet1.gif (837 bytes) A System for
Global Governance
bullet1.gif (837 bytes) A Century of
Growth and
Expansion
bullet1.gif (837 bytes) New Approaches
to Old Problems
bullet1.gif (837 bytes) Towards the New
World Order

How many Bahá'ís are there?

Accurately estimating the number of followers of any world religion is a difficult and complex task. In some regions of the world, religious persecution or government oppression may make individual believers reluctant to identify themselves. In other areas, poor communication or travel networks make it difficult to collect data.

With these difficulties in mind, demographers at the Bahá'í World Centre have attempted to be as conservative as possible in estimating the number of Bahá'ís worldwide. Their most recent survey yielded an estimate of 5,000,000 Bahá'ís in 1991.

The inherent conservatism of their methodology is evident when Bahá'í statistics are compared with estimates made by other religious scholars. Each year, for example, the Encyclopaedia Britannica publishes a table of religious demographic statistics. According to the 1992 Britannica Book of the Year, there were 5,400,000 Bahá'ís worldwide in 1991.

Over the last three decades, the number of Bahá'ís in the world has grown dramatically. It is estimated that there were about 400,000 Bahá'ís in the world in 1963, the year of the First Bahá'í World Congress. By 1985, it was estimated that there were about 3,500,000 Bahá'ís in the world.

In other words, the Bahá'í Faith has grown by an estimated 1,500,000 believers over the last six years, an increase of roughly 43 percent.

Making any comparison between the rate of growth of the Bahá'í Faith and other religions must be carefully qualified. Since Bahá'í demographers are not involved in gathering statistics on other religions, it would be inappropriate to make any official characterization about the rate of growth of the Bahá'í Faith in. relation to other religious groups.

ANNUAL RATE OF GROWTH, 1970-1985 OF THE WORLD'S INDEPENDENT RELIGIONS

3.63% - Bahá'í Faith
2.74% - Islam
2.30% - Hinduism
1.67% - Buddhism
1.64% - Christianity
1.09% - Judaism

However, statistics from the World Christian Encyclopedia, which is perhaps the best-respected work on this subject, indicate that the Bahá'í faith is among, the fastest growing of the independent world religions. The World Christian Encyclopedia estimated that the worldwide Bahá'í community grew at an average rate of 3.63 percent per year during the 15 years from 1970 to 1985.

Published in 1982, it reports on the work of Christian demographers who undertook a decade-long survey of religious believers worldwide in the 1970s. The survey attempted to accurately determine the number of Christians--and followers of other religions--in every country, and to make projections about their growth.

A comparison of rates of growth among the independent world religions, as reported in the World Christian Encyclopedia, is shown in the graph below at left.

While these figures are more than seven years old, they remain virtually the only widely published side-by- side comparison of the rate of growth for various religions.

It is important to qualify these figures by noting that, according to the World Christian Encyclopedia, some sects or sub-groups-of Christianity and Islam grew faster than the Bahá'í Faith during this period. None of these sects or sub-groups, however, were listed as having followers in more than 100 countries. The Bahá'í Faith, was listed as having established "significant" communities in more than 192 countries in 1982, at the time of the Encyclopedia's publication.

More recent figures, reported in the 1992 Britannica Book of the Year, show the Bahá'í Faith as having significant communities in 205 countries, second only to Christianity in its geographic spread.

Statisticians at the Bahá'í World Centre calculated In 1992 that the Faith is established in 232 countries and dependent territories.


"Excerpted from The Bahá'ís, a publication of the Bahá'í International Community."


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Graph from page 14

Annual rate of growth, 1970-1985 of the world's independent religions.

 

 


 

 

 

 

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