Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The Presence of Islam in Vienna

As more and more immigrants move to Europe, there is a growing Islamic presence in most European countries and cities. Austria is no exception. An article was recently published here stating that Muslims now outnumber Catholics in middle and secondary schools in Vienna (with primary schools close behind). In a catholic country like Austria, this development is significant. Not only that, but according to the article, "Austria is also in the process of introducing new taxpayer-funded textbooks for the formal teaching if Islam in all public elementary schools across the country.... This is the first time Islam is being taught to Austrian students in the German language."

I think these statistics may not be as straight forward as they appear. Yes, there are more Muslims moving to Vienna and registered their children with the government as officially "Muslim". But this also points to the shrinking number of Catholic children in the schools. Although the older generation placed a high value on church membership and attendance, the growing trend is a disinterest in the church and formalized religion. I suspect that today's generation of parents is less likely to register their children as "Catholic", even if they themselves grew up in Catholic homes. With this in mind, it's no surprise that Muslims are passing up Catholics in official numbers.

The article also talks a lot about the new textbooks that will be used in the schools to educate Islamic students. The focus is to reinforce Islamic beliefs and help the students feel "at home" in Austria. It seems to me that the Islamic faith here is putting much more effort into educating their young than the Catholic church...or at least are doing it more effectively. Another new development is that Islamic clergy will now be educated within the Austrian university system.

For us, this news confirm what we knew already, mainly that there is a strong need for the gospel in Austria. With Islam's growing presence and the current level of disenchantment with the Catholic church, few people are hearing and embracing a Christian faith.  We've heard from many people that when they decide to leave the Catholic church, they are not looking for "another Christian option". Instead, if they are searching for God, they go in a different direction completely, such as towards Islam. And that is becoming easier and easier, since Muslims number 6% of the population, while evangelical Christians are only 0.5%.

Please pray with us for Austria and this growing need. Pray for the true God to be seen and known and for boldness for us and our fellow brother and sisters in Christ to share the good news with Austria.