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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

(To sort the table click on a heading)

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
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

(To sort the table click on a heading)

Continent
Country
World

Rank

1984
World

Rank

2003
Mennonite

Membership

1984
% of All

Mennonites

1984
Mennonite

Membership

2003
% of All

Mennonites

2003
North America
1
1
232192
32.1
323329
24.9
North America
2
3
101512
14.0
127851
9.9
Europe
Russia / CIS
5
22
55000
7.6
5000
.4
Europe
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
.0
Europe
41
50
185
.0
300
.0
Europe
43
58
105
.0
110
.0
Europe
47
64
73
.0
35
.0
Europe
Italy
48
51
66
.0
258
.0
Europe
51
54
33
.0
160
.0
Europe
United Kingdom
53
57
15
.0
112
.0
Europe
Ireland
56
65
9
.0
15
.0
Europe
99
61
0
.0
55
.0
Latin America
7
13
31161
4.3
19688
1.5
Latin America
9
11
13939
2.0
27693
2.1
Latin America
13
15
6203
.9
13275
1.0
Latin America
17
20
4750
.7
8262
.6
Latin America
18
12
2850
.4
20716
1.6
Latin America
22
29
2633
.4
2910
.2
Latin America
23
26
2591
.4
3575
.3
Latin America
25
19
2412
.3
9275
.7
Latin America
Dominican Republic
27
23
1800
.2
4626
.4
Latin America
28
21
1789
.2
6673
.5
Latin America
29
24
1576
.2
4448
.3
Latin America
31
38
971
.1
1220
.1
Latin America
32
47
909
.1
540
.0
Latin America
33
37
900
.1
1265
.1
Latin America
Costa Rica
35
30
850
.1
2719
.2
Latin America
36
99
400
.1
0
.0
Latin America
37
43
400
.1
750
.1
Latin America
39
44
385
.1
731
.1
Latin America
Venezuela
45
46
85
.0
704
.1
Latin America
46
48
75
.0
535
.0
Latin America
49
56
44
.0
130
.0
Latin America
52
41
15
.0
810
.1
Latin America
57
33
NA
.0
2070
.2
Latin America
99
49
0
.0
515
.0
Asia
4
6
62911
8.7
71302
5.5
Asia
6
4
43998
6.1
127348
9.8
Asia
Japan
20
28
2710
.4
3292
.3
Asia
24
32
2500
.3
2437
.2
Asia
30
35
1200
.2
1678
.1
Asia
Vietnam
42
39
150
.0
1100
.1
Asia
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
Zaire / Dem. Rep. Congo
3
2
66408
9.2
194119
15.0
Africa
10
7
13614
1.9
50000
3.9
Africa
12
5
7000
1.0
98025
7.6
Africa
14
14
6000
.8
15374
1.2
Africa
15
10
5184
.7
29213
2.3
Africa
16
16
5000
.7
11373
.9
Africa
21
9
2653
.4
31556
2.4
Africa
34
25
854
.1
4101
.3
Africa
38
17
395
.0
11176
.9
Africa
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
99
27
0
.0
3500
.3
Africa
99
40
0
.0
950
.1
Africa
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. 21 Dec 2014. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Demography&oldid=91570.

APA style

Driedger, Leo. (1988). Demography. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 21 December 2014, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Demography&oldid=91570.




Hpbuttns.gif
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Waterloo, Ontario, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 5, pp. 223-226. All rights reserved. For information on ordering the encyclopedia visit the Herald Press website.


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