Bible iconGet the facts about the various religions around the world.

Poverty affects people in every corner of the world, regardless of their religion. In order to make a true and lasting difference for those in poverty, we must be culturally and religiously sensitive as we interact with the poor around the world.

These facts about religion touch on religion's involvement in the fight against global poverty.

  • Christians were the largest religious group in the world in 2015, making up nearly a third (31 percent) of Earth’s 7.3 billion people. Muslims were second, with 1.8 billion people, or 24 percent of the global population, followed by religious "nones" (16 percent), Hindus (15 percent) and Buddhists (7 percent). 5
  • Between 2015 and 2060, Muslims – the major religious group with the youngest population and the highest fertility – are projected to increase by 70 percent. The number of Christians is projected to rise by 34 percent. 5
  • Much of the worldwide growth of Islam and Christianity is expected to take place in sub-Saharan Africa. 5
  • Over the coming decades (2010 to 2050), about 40 million people are projected to switch into Christianity, while 106 million are projected to leave, with most joining the ranks of the religiously unaffiliated. 1
Boys standing next to each other with arms around each other smiling wearing school uniforms
Three girls sitting on bench outside wearing school uniforms
  • By 2050, four out of every 10 Christians in the world will live in sub-Saharan Africa. 1
  • Muslims have the highest fertility rate of any religious group – an average of 2.9 children per woman, well above replacement level (2.1), the minimum typically needed to maintain a stable population. Christians are second, at 2.6 children per woman. Hindu and Jewish fertility (2.3 each) are both just below the global average of 2.4 children per woman. All other groups have fertility levels too low to sustain their populations. 5
  • India is projected to have the largest Muslim population of any country in the world in 2050, surpassing Indonesia. 1
  • In the next four decades, atheists, agnostics and other people who do not affiliate with any religion – though increasing in the U.S. and France – will make up a declining share of the world’s total population. 1
  • If current trends continue, by 2050 Muslims will be more numerous in the U.S. than people who identify as Jewish on the basis of religion and Christians in the U.S. will decline from more than three-quarters of the population to two-thirds. 1
  • In 2015, 40 percent of countries had high or very high levels of restrictions on religion. 2
  • The share of countries with high or very high government restrictions on religion – i.e., laws, policies and actions that restrict religious beliefs and practices – was 25 percent in 2015. 2
  • In 2015, 27 percent of countries had high or very high levels of acts of religious hostility by private individuals, organizations or groups in society. 2
  • One hundred and five countries experienced widespread government harassment of religious groups in 2015. 2
  • In 2015, harassment of Christians, either by government or social groups, was found in 108 of 195 countries; Muslims were harassed in 125 countries and harassment of Jews was found in 74countries. 2
Young girl praying and worshiping in church
Boys learning about religion
  • Latin America is home to more than 425 million Catholics – nearly 40 percent of the world’s total Catholic population. 3
  • Across all 18 countries in Latin America, a median of nearly two-thirds of Protestants (65 percent) identify as Pentecostal Christians. 3
  • Protestants now account for about one-in five Hispanics in the United States (22 percent). 3
  • An estimated 83.4 percent of women around the world identify with a faith group, compared with 79.9 percent of men. 4
  • Jews are more highly educated than any other major religious group around the world, while Muslims and Hindus tend to have the fewest years of formal schooling. 6
  • Muslim women around the globe have an average of 4.9 years of schooling, compared with 6.4 years among Muslim men. 6
  • Christians are one of the world’s most highly educated religious groups: The vast majority of Christian adults ages 25 and older (91 percent) have at least some formal schooling, and one-in-five have post-secondary degrees. 6

According to the the Pew Research Center, in 2015:

  • 31.2 percent of the people in the world were Christians.
  • 24.1 percent were Muslims.
  • 16 percent were not religious.
  • 15.1 percent were Hindu.
  • 6.9 percent were Buddhists.
  • 5.7 percent adhered to folk religions.
  • 0.8 percent adhered to other religions.
  • 0.2 percent were Jews.
Compassion is a Christ-centered organization. Sponsored children are encouraged to live according to biblical principles and to practice the spiritual disciplines of prayer, Bible study, worship and service. However, the children are not required to become Christians.

How Do the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals Relate to Compassion?

Students looking through window and smilingThe UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) directly parallel what Compassion does. But when it comes to goals and implementation we sometimes take a different approach. This is a quick analysis of the SDGs and how they most closely match our work, along with ways they overlap and differ.

Learn More >


1 Pew Research Center, April 2, 2015, "The Future of World Religions: Population Growth Projections, 2010-2050

2 Pew Research Center, April 11, 2017, "Global Restrictions on Religion Rise Modestly in 2015, Reversing Downward Trend"

3 Pew Research Center, Nov. 13, 2014, "Religion in Latin America: Widespread Change in a Historically Catholic Region"

4 Pew Research Center, March 22, 2016, "The Gender Gap in Religion Around the World"/p>

5 Pew Research Center, April 5, 2017, "The Changing Global Religious Landscape"

6 Pew Research Center, Dec. 13, 2016, "Religion and Education Around the World"