Nobody questions that Christians and Muslims need to understand each other better.
This is prompted by the fast-changing demographic and religious map of Europe, where Islam is the fastest growing religion. In 2006, there were 53 million Muslims in Europe, according to the German Central Islamic Archive Institute. Of these, 16 million live in the European Union. Some demographers claim that one in every five Europeans will be a Muslim by 2050, and by 2100 a quarter of all Europeans will preach the Koran. However, not all agree on these forecasts.
The secretariat on interreligious affairs of the Jesuit Order, a serious Catholic organization, dismisses the statistics about the growth of the Muslim population. It may have a point. First, it is hard to imagine where all these figures come from if the majority of European countries forbid asking questions about religious affiliation during demographic surveys. The Order's own studies show that when Muslims join the profoundly secularized European societies their young become Europeanized and the number of believers among them is no greater than among Catholics.One good illustration of the vagueness of "Muslim statistics" is Russia, which may be described as the biggest Muslim country in Europe. Russia's Muslim population is estimated at between 14.5 and 20 million. The CIA claims there are 26 million Muslims in Russia. The first question that hardcore skeptics ask in connection with the Vatican-Islamic forum is surprisingly simple: who will represent Islam? If neither the Vatican nor the Islamic world is sure of the answer, is it a dialogue at all? The supporters of the dialogue respond that at any rate, it's better than new Crusades.
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