In 2000, Catholics were the largest Christian group globally. Catholicism, which still predominates in southern and central Europe, is particularly evident in former Spanish, French and Portuguese colonies, such as Latin America, Mexico and the Philippines. Canada and Australia have large Catholic communities, reflecting immigration from the Catholic Old World, but also have a large minority of Protestant Christians, many of whom sought religious freedom through migration. Protestant Christianity constitutes the second largest Christian group worldwide and is scattered across the globe, from Greenland to Papua New Guinea. Orthodox Christianity is dominant within the Russian Federation and much of eastern Europe, a reflection of missionary activities in the Middle Ages, before the Great Schism split the Catholic and Orthodox Churches. Islam is the second largest world religion, with Sunnis forming the majority, followed by Shi’ites. These ancient divisions originate in disputes about the successor to the prophet Muhammad. Sunni Islam is widely distributed across North Africa, the Middle East and Indonesia. Shi’ite Islam is more closely confined to the Middle East. In South and Southeast Asia the ancient religions of Hinduism and Buddhism, manifested in several different forms, still hold sway.
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