Mega-Cities and the Globalization of Religions

By Ronald Brown

At the dawn of the 21st century, the mega-city is rapidly becoming the stage for the transition of local religions to the status of global religions. Once relegated to the margins of world religions, migration to the world mega-cities has catapulted them to the status of world religions.

This article analyzes the five stages in the globalization of religions and applies them to the Unification Movement in the context of developments in Caribbean culture. The stages are: religions in the mega-city; the role of the media globalizing religions; the establishment of a formal clergy; the institutionalization of religions; and, religions and academia.

Religions in the mega-cities

United Nations statistics show that over half of the world’s population resided in cities over one million in population as of 2007 and urbanites are predicted to comprise 70% of the world’s population by 2050. These statistics include rural residents fleeing poverty to cities in their own country as well as mega-cities in other countries.

Among these new urbanites are some 60 million settlers from the Caribbean islands. This demographic reality has a double effect on the migrants. Firstly, Caribbean people are being transformed from residents of isolated islands into global urbanites. The majority are uneducated poor rural farmers fleeing poverty, landlord oppression, and semi-slave factory work. They establish urban ghettos in their new mega-city home and seek to recreate a semblance of their island homelands.

Secondly, in this often hostile mega-city environment, the migrants cling to the religions, cultures, and traditions of their island homelands. Isolated, fearful, and often persecuted, they construct ethnic neighborhoods. Often the citizens of their new homelands are intrigued by these exotic newcomers, visit their neighborhoods, and attend their religious observances. Suddenly, a local island cult is a global reality.

The Unification Movement was founded by the Reverend Sun Myung Moon in Seoul, South Korea, in 1954.

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