Demography

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The Anabaptist movement began in 16th-century Switzerland, Germany, and The Netherlands. However, by 1988 Mennonites had fanned out into 57 countries of the world and are represented on every continent. These world Mennonite population shifts are of great interest to demographers who like to trace population trends, taking into account such changes as births, deaths, and migration (immigration and emigration). The Mennonite World Conference surveys are not always as complete as one would like, but the 1984 data show interesting demographic patterns.

Mennonite Distribution. Table 1 shows that in 1984 about three-fourths of a million (723,747) Mennonites were located on six continents. Almost half of these were located in North America (46.1 percent), an d the other half were located fairly evenly on four continents including Asia (113, 504), Africa (107,221), Europe (92,368) and Latin America (76,936). Only 12 Mennonites were located in Australia. These are adult membership figures; if younger unbaptized offspring were included, these fi gures would likely double.

DEMOGRAPHY

Compiler: Leo Driedger (author of the article) and Sam Steiner (2003 figures)

Table 1. Distribution of Mennonites of the World by Continents, 1984 & 2003

Continents Countries with Mennonites
1984
Countries with Mennonites
2003
Mennonite Membership
1984
% of All Mennonites
1984
Mennonite Membership
2003
% of All Mennonites
2003
North America 2 2 333704 46.1 451180 34.8
Europe 13 13 92368 12.7 53272 4.1
Latin America* 23 23 76938 10.7 133150 10.3
Asia 7 10 113504 15.7 208105 16.0
Africa 11 16 107201 14.8 451959 34.8
Australia 1 1 12 0.0 50 0.0
  57 65 723,747 100.0 1,297,716 100.0
°Includes Caribbean countries 

Source: Mennonite World Conference map, 1984; Mennonite World Conference website, 2005. Although the table has been updated, the commentary remains that of the 1988 article.

In 1984 only about one eighth (92,368; 12.7 percent) of the Mennonites of the world lived in Europe, the place of Anabaptist origins. The majority of the European Mennonites were located in the Soviet Union (55,000; 7.6 percent). The 20,000 Mennonites in The Netherlands (2.8 percent) were the second largest group in Europe, one of the two Mennonite groups with continuous links to their 16th-century origins. Mennonites in West Germany numbered 11,688 (1.6 percent), and only 2,750 Mennonites remained in Switzerland (.4 percent), the other country with a history of unbroken Anabaptist and Mennonite presence. Many emigrated from the original Anabaptist centers in central Europe which resulted in loss of potential for growth.

Almost half of all Mennonites lived in North America (46.1 percent), in United States (232,192) and Canada (101,512). Most of them are descendants of Mennonite immigrants from Europe. The first Mennonites came to America 300 years ago, and to Canada 200 years ago. A large number of Mennonites arrived in both countries in the 1870s, and more immigrants came to Canada in the 1920s and 1950s, mostly from the Soviet Union. In 1984 one-third of all Mennonites lived in the United States (32.1 percent), and the second largest number lived in Canada (14.0 percent).

The 76,938 Mennonites living in 23 countries of Latin America in 1984 represented 10.7 percent of all Mennonites. The largest number (31,161 or 4.3 percent) were descendants of those who went to Mexico in the 1920s from Canada; the 13,939 Mennonites living in Paraguay (1.9 percent) were descendants of later immigrants from both Canada an d Europe, including the Soviet Union. Mennonites in the other Latin American countries represented small minorities, some who came as immigrants, and others who were converts of mission outreach. Thus, about two-thirds of the Mennonites in Latin America were also descendants of the original European Anabaptists.

The 113,504 Mennonites in seven countries of Asia represented 15.7 percent of all Mennonites in 1984. The two oldest and also largest groups of Mennonites resided in Indonesia (62,911 or 8.7 percent) and India (43,998 or 6.1 percent) representing the fourth- and sixth-largest groups in the world respectively. These Mennonites were the outgrowth of late 19th-century and 20th-century mission outreach, rather than immigration. The same is true of the comparatively small groups of Mennonites in the other five Asian countries.

In Africa, the 66,408 members in Zaire (Democratic Republic of Congo) represented about two-thirds of all Mennonites in the 11 countries, and in 1984 Zaire Mennonites were the third-largest group in the world representing 9.2 percent of all Mennonites. Tanzania, the country with the second-largest Mennonite population in Africa, ranked tenth in the world, but the 13,614 Mennonites there represented only 1.9 percent of all Mennonites. Demographic trends suggested that the growth potential for Mennonites in Africa was great.

Population Growth. What is the potential for the future increase or decrease of the Mennonite population in the various parts of the world? Demographers work with four factors: births and immigration which increase population growth, and deaths and emigration, which decrease the population. Since the Mennonites are an ethno-religious group, two other factors, recruitment and assimilation, enter the equation. Evangelism will add to the numbers, and assimilation will subtract from the population. Data for longer periods of time is not as readily available as might be desired, but some tentative observations and projections can be made.

With respect to births and deaths, industrial countries tend to have low birth and low death rates. This applies to Mennonites in North America and Europe. Small families and better medical care will tend to keep both birth and deaths down, so that population will stabilize. However, in developing countries of Africa and Asia, where birth rates are high, and death rates are beginning to decrease, Mennonite population will likely grow considerably in the future by natural increase. Migration, the other change factor, was important when Mennonites left Europe in large numbers and migrated to North America and South America, decreasing the Mennonite numbers in Europe and adding to growth in the Americas. In the future migrations will most likely not be as important.

Evangelism has greatly increased the Indonesian Mennonite population in recent decades, and Mennonite World Conference projections suggest that it is also an important factor in Africa, especially the Democratic Republic of Congo (Zaire), where Mennonite numbers have escalated since 1984. More study is needed to help decide whether the minimal growth in Europe is due to continued out-migration, lack of evangelism, and assimilation, now that birth and death rates are low. The available data suggest that the proportion of world Mennonites will decline in Europe, hold steady in North America, and increase in South America and especially Africa in the next several decades.

DEMOGRAPHY

Compiler: Leo Driedger (author of the article) and Sam Steiner (2003 figures)

Table 2. Mennonite Population by Continents and Countries, 1984 & 2003

Continent Country World Rank 1984 World Rank 2003 Mennonite Membership 1984 % of All Mennonites 1984 Mennonite Membership 2003 % of All Mennonites 2003
North America United States 1 1 232192 32.1 323329 24.9
North America Canada 2 3 101512 14.0 127851 9.9
Europe Russia / CIS 5 22 55000 7.6 5000 .4
Europe Netherlands 8 18 20200 2.8 11000 .8
Europe West Germany / Germany 11 8 11688 1.6 31677 2.4
Europe Switzerland 19 31 2750 .4 2500 .2
Europe France 26 34 2000 .3 2050 .2
Europe East Germany 40 99 244 .0 see Germany .0
Europe Austria 41 50 185 .0 300 .0
Europe Luxembourg 43 58 105 .0 110 .0
Europe Belgium 47 64 73 .0 35 .0
Europe Italy 48 51 66 .0 258 .0
Europe Spain 51 54 33 .0 160 .0
Europe United Kingdom 53 57 15 .0 112 .0
Europe Ireland 56 65 9 .0 15 .0
Europe Portugal 99 61 0 .0 55 .0
Latin America Mexico 7 13 31161 4.3 19688 1.5
Latin America Paraguay 9 11 13939 2.0 27693 2.1
Latin America Bolivia 13 15 6203 .9 13275 1.0
Latin America Brazil 17 20 4750 .7 8262 .6
Latin America Honduras 18 12 2850 .4 20716 1.6
Latin America Colombia 22 29 2633 .4 2910 .2
Latin America Belize 23 26 2591 .4 3575 .3
Latin America Nicaragua 25 19 2412 .3 9275 .7
Latin America Dominican Republic 27 23 1800 .2 4626 .4
Latin America Guatemala 28 21 1789 .2 6673 .5
Latin America Argentina 29 24 1576 .2 4448 .3
Latin America Uruguay 31 38 971 .1 1220 .1
Latin America Puerto Rico 32 47 909 .1 540 .0
Latin America Haiti 33 37 900 .1 1265 .1
Latin America Costa Rica 35 30 850 .1 2719 .2
Latin America Chile 36 99 400 .1 0 .0
Latin America Panama 37 43 400 .1 750 .1
Latin America Jamaica 39 44 385 .1 731 .1
Latin America Venezuela 45 46 85 .0 704 .1
Latin America El Salvador 46 48 75 .0 535 .0
Latin America Trinidad & Tobago 49 56 44 .0 130 .0
Latin America Ecuador 52 41 15 .0 810 .1
Latin America Cuba 57 33 NA .0 2070 .2
Latin America Peru 99 49 0 .0 515 .0
Asia Indonesia 4 6 62911 8.7 71302 5.5
Asia India 6 4 43998 6.1 127348 9.8
Asia Japan 20 28 2710 .4 3292 .3
Asia Philippines 24 32 2500 .3 2437 .2
Asia Taiwan 30 35 1200 .2 1678 .1
Asia Vietnam 42 39 150 .0 1100 .1
Asia Hong Kong / China 50 59 35 .0 90 .0
Asia Nepal 99 42 0 .0 750 .1
Asia Singapore 99 63 0 .0 48 .0
Asia South Korea 99 60 0 .0 60 .0
Africa Zaire / Dem. Rep. Congo 3 2 66408 9.2 194119 15.0
Africa Tanzania 10 7 13614 1.9 50000 3.9
Africa Ethiopia 12 5 7000 1.0 98025 7.6
Africa Zambia 14 14 6000 .8 15374 1.2
Africa Zimbabwe 15 10 5184 .7 29213 2.3
Africa Nigeria 16 16 5000 .7 11373 .9
Africa Kenya 21 9 2653 .4 31556 2.4
Africa Ghana 34 25 854 .1 4101 .3
Africa Angola 38 17 395 .0 11176 .9
Africa Somalia 44 99 100 .0 0 .0
Africa Upper Volta 54 99 13 .0 0 .0
Africa Côte d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast) 99 36 0 .0 1300 .1
Africa Malawi 99 27 0 .0 3500 .3
Africa South Africa 99 40 0 .0 950 .1
Africa Mozambique 99 45 0 .0 718 .1
Africa Burkino Faso 99 52 0 .0 230 .0
Africa Namibia 99 53 0 .0 180 .0
Africa Togo 99 55 0 .0 144 .0
Australia Australia 55 62 12 .0 50 .0
Totals     723,474 100% 1,297,716 100.00

Source: Mennonite World Conference map, 1984; Mennonite World Conference website, 2005. Although the table has been updated, the commentary remains that of the 1988 article.

See also Sociological Studies; Statistics; Urbanization.

Bibliography

Kraybill, Paul N., ed. Mennonite World Handbook. Lombard, IL: Mennonite World Conference, 1978.

Mennonite World Handbook Supplement. Strasbourg, France, and Lombard, IL: Mennonite World Conference, 1984

Shelly, David. "World Membership Now 774,000." Mennonite Weekly Review (30 October 1986): 1.

Cf. Courier 1, no. 4 (1986): 9 and Mennonite World Conference directory insert; Courier 2 no. 2 (1987): 9.

Mennonite World Conference website


Author(s) Leo Driedger
Date Published 1988


Cite This Article

MLA style

Driedger, Leo. "Demography." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1988. Web. 9 Aug 2020. https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Demography&oldid=167709.

APA style

Driedger, Leo. (1988). Demography. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 9 August 2020, from https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Demography&oldid=167709.




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Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 5, pp. 223-226. All rights reserved.


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