Consisting of eight nations (Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka), South Asia represents nearly a quarter of the world’s population. Christians form a small minority in this region, which is home to approximately one billion Hindus, 600 million Muslims, and only 35 million Christians. ScholarLeaders has supported Christen leaders from three South Asian nations (Pakistan, India, and Sri Lanka) that illustrate the diversity of the region. Through the Vital SustainAbility Initiative, ScholarLeaders also works with the South Asia Institute of Advanced Christian Studies (SAIACS) in Bangalore, India and with Colombo Theological Seminary (CTS) in Colombo, Sri Lanka. The Centre for South Asia Research at SAIACS (India) is a collaborative ministry of SAIACS, the Theological Book Network, and ScholarLeaders International.
Pakistan is the only nation established in the name of Islam. Constitutionally, all laws must conform to the Quran. The country has a large economy and a rising middle class, but also faces challenges related to illiteracy, corruption, and terrorism. Of the nation’s 202 million people, more than 96% are Muslims. Christians represent a very small minority, but the Church continues to persevere and grow, despite persecution. Learn about the Church’s historical relationship with the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, the strongest barriers to missions, and Muslims’ most common objections to Christianity in this special feature on Gloria Calib’s prophetic leadership in Pakistan. For a Christian response to religious extremism, read Maqsood Kamil’s 2016 Insights Essay.
Sharing its northwestern border with Pakistan, India is home to over 1.3 billion people, 80% of whom are Hindus. As one of the world’s fastest growing economies, India has seen tremendous change over the last 30 years. Although the percentage of people living below the global poverty line has decreased, economic inequality has increased. Internal migration and urban growth have strained infrastructure, and have challenged traditions and identities. Since 2014, the political ascension of Hindu nationalism has increased pressure on religious minorities. Islam is the second largest religion in India. With around 180 million Muslims, India has the third largest Muslim population in the world (behind Indonesia and Pakistan). Although only 2% of Indians are Christians, the Church is still 26 million-strong and growing. The Church needs leaders who can shepherd new believers and help address the unique contextual of the subcontinent. Learn about Manohar James’ distinctive response to Hindu nationalist persecution and rising “re-conversions” to Hinduism here.
A large island just southeast of India, Sri Lanka has the longest continuous history of Buddhism in the world. 70% of its 21 million people practice Buddhism; the rest are Hindus (13%), Muslims (10%), and Christians (7%). The teardrop-shaped island nation has seen plenty of tears in recent years: ethnic riots, the 2004 tsunami, and 26 years of civil war. Presently, political stability has led to increased economic growth and development. Although nearly 85% of Sri Lankans remain in rural areas, the country has a remarkably high literacy rate of 92%. Most of Sri Lanka’s 1.5 million Christians are Roman Catholic. Although Evangelicals comprise only 2% of the population, they have continued to grow at twice the rate of the general population.