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Materials, ideas and religion were commonly traded along Silk Road. Compared with other religions, Buddhism was the most outstanding religion in this trade route (Baumer, 2000). Christianity appeared on Silk Road at around 432 AD. This was a time when the Roman Catholic Church prohibited the Christian group of Nestorians in Europe. The effect of the prohibition was that Nestorians fled to the Eastern side.
Traders in the Silk Road acted as agents of Christianity and by 638 A.D the earliest Nestorian church was built in Changan. One of the historic evidence of the existence of Nestorians was the writings found on the cave temples at Dunhuang. Other branches of Christianity which emerged in later years were: ‘‘Roman Catholic Church, protestant churches and the Eastern Orthodox Church’’ (Baumer, 2000).
The beginning of 8th century marked the start of conversions into Islamic religion. Destruction of symbols such as wall paintings, prolific artwork, monasteries and stupas was meant to convert people into Islamic religion. It is also important to note that Islam condemned the use of symbols.
Temples and stupas which belonged to Buddhist were left and buried under the sand. Largest part of central Asia had been transformed into Islam by the period 15th century.
There are a number of factors that contributed to spread of Islam in the central Asia. In the first instance politics, which is an agent of change, brought about the spread of Islam. The fact that government of central Asia supported Islam was a reason for people’s acceptance of the religion. A common observation is that people accepts rules made a government. This is why the spread of Islam was fast.
Another critical factor to the spread of Islam was trade. At that time, businessmen favored trading with Muslim contrary to Buddhist since they were given better treatment. Moreover, assimilation was an additional element for switching into Islam. It was easier for people to corporate with government’s demand rather than risk being killed or hurt for flouting rules and regulations. As Islam expanded, more mosques were built along Silk Road which replaced monasteries and stupas.
Similarities in their growth
From the literature above, both Christian and Islam religion grew due to intense trade and its conditions along Silk Road. People accepted Islam religion since it was easier to conduct trade with Islam than Buddhist. Disseminating Christian ideology of equality in the afterlife was the main factor which led to acceptance and ultimately growth of Christianity.
Difference in their growth
While growth of Islam was due to political force where government supported Islamic religion, Christianity gained its fame by spreading the gospel of good hope for tomorrow. Christian beliefs in incarnation, atonement and trinity were a reason for its acceptance and spread.
On the other hand, Islam belief lies on pillars. Baumer (2000) identifies these pillars as ‘‘prayer, charity, observance of Ramadan and pilgrimage to Mecca’’. It is also evident that traders were forced to accept Islam due to excellent trading conditions as compared to Buddhist.
Common factor about Islam and Christianity
One of the common factors about Christianity and Islamic religion is their belief in existence of supernatural power. Christians hold that God created the universe and all of its contents. This is similar to Islam who belief that God is Allah who created the world and its elements. Furthermore, the two regions maintain prayer as means of communicating with God. The holy bible and Koran were written by people who were inspired by God. These are the common facts about Christian and Islam religion.
Baumer, C. (2000). Southern Silk Road: In the Footsteps of Sir Aurel and Sven Hedin. Bangkok: Orchid Press.