Missionary Work

Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Wikipedia.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Missionary Work


a form of activity by religious organizations and churches having as its aim the conversion of non-believers and the return of apostates to the bosom of the church. In actuality, missionary work involves broader tasks, promoting the realization of the political aims of the social groups and governments that the missionaries serve.

In Buddhism, missionary activity was frequently carried on by wandering monks and became widespread in the third century B.C. Christian missionary activity began in the fourth century A.D. In the 13th through 16th centuries Christian missionaries penetrated into India, China, and Japan. The sowing of Christianity in its Catholic form in Eastern Europe was an ideological coverup for German feudal colonial expansion (the Drang nach Osten).

Missionary work by the Catholic Church became more active after the formation of the Spanish and Portuguese colonial empires in the 15th and 16th centuries. The missionaries helped the colonizers to seize and “open up” new lands. For the supervision of Catholic missionary work, Pope Gregory XV established the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith in 1622 (which became the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples in 1961). Catholic missionary societies were later formed in a number of countries. In the 17th and 18th centuries, when the Netherlands and Great Britain adopted a colonial policy, the leading Protestant churches in those countries began to develop their missionary activity. In the early 19th century missionary organizations arose in the USA. Missionaries became more active in the last third of the 19th century, the period of struggle among the imperialist powers to divide up the world. The activity of Christian missionaries in Africa expanded. Supported by colonial administrations and subsidized by governmental bodies and monopolies, the missionary institutions became the possessors of substantial capital and lands and acted as implementers of the colonial policies of their own governments. The overwhelming majority of the educational institutions in African countries were (and in some countries still are) in the hands of religious missions. They also extended their control to medical institutions and to cultural, sports, and other public social organizations.

Missions in Africa (and to a lesser extent in Europe during the early Middle Ages) allotted an important place to schools. However, this part of their work reached only a small percentage of the local population and usually was ultimately aimed at preparing people for service in the colonial administration.

The functions of missionaries of Islam were often performed by Muslim merchants, and later, with the development of Sufism, by wandering monks, the Sufis.

In Russia, missionary work was closely associated with the forced Christianization of non-Russian peoples, monastic colonization, and the struggle with schism and sectarianism. In the 14th century Stefan of Perm’ spread Christianity among the Zyrian (Komi). In the 16th century missionary activity by Christian monasteries among the local population of the Volga region was intensified. In the 18th century and first half of the 19th it was intensified among the peoples of Siberia and the Caucasus. In 1870 the Orthodox Missionary Society was founded in Moscow, uniting various Siberian missions. In 1867 the Brotherhood of St. Gurii in Kazan became involved in implanting Christianity among the Tatar population. A number of Russian Orthodox missions were created outside of Russia. Overall supervision of missionary work in the Russian empire was in the hands of the Synod, which developed regulations for missionary organizations and conducted all-Russian and regional conferences of missionaries.

After World War II, with the disintegration of the colonial system, the rise of the national liberation movement, and the gaining of independence by many former colonies, the struggle against national liberation movements and the spread of anti-communist propaganda came to occupy a large place in the activity of the missionaries. Missionary activity became a transmitter of the policies of neocolonialism. By 1969 the African missions had about 16,000 male and 30,000 female members of various Christian orders (the majority non-Africans). In order to adapt to new conditions, the church began to change its ways of doing missionary work; it created a church hierarchy of local people, included local religious cult rituals in Christian worship, introduced cult dances and music into religious services, conducted services in local languages, and employed radio and television in missionary propaganda. Taking account of the strength of the national liberation movement, the missionaries, in order to maintain their position, have begun to come out against racism, especially in the countries of Africa. In 1971 the Catholic order of White Fathers recalled all its members from Mozambique as a protest against the crimes of the Portuguese colonial authorities and the collaboration of the church hierarchy with the colonialists. The antimissionary movement has intensified with the growth of the national liberation movement.


Sheinman, M. M. Vatikan i katolitsizm v kontse XlX-nach. XX v. Moscow, 1958.
Sheinman, M. M. Sovremennyi klerikalizm. Moscow, 1964.
Lavretskii, I. R. Ten’ Vatikana nadLatinskoi Amerikoi. Moscow, 1961.
Lavretskii, I. R. Kolonizatory ukhodiatmissionery ostaiutsia. Moscow, 1963.
Sharevskaia, B. I. Starye i novye religii Tropicheskoi i luzhnoi Afriki. Moscow, 1964.
Shpazhnikov, G. A. Religii stran Afriki. Moscow, 1967.
Iastrebov, I. B. “Problemy missionerstva na Sobore.” Voprosy nauchnogo ateizma, 1968, issue 6.
Berzin, E. O. Katolicheskaia tserkov’ v lugo-Vostochnoi AziL Moscow, 1968.
Mustafa al-Halidi, Omar Farruh. Missionery i imperializm v arabskikh stranakh. Moscow, 1961. (Translated from Arabic.)


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
The missions department is directed by two mission secretaries - one whose main responsibility is the missionary work done in Sweden, the other whose main responsibility is the international missionary work.
On the other hand, the narrative levies its harshest criticism of missionary work not against the white missionary Doris Baines but against Aunt Theodosia - and particularly against the foolish pride she takes in a medal given to her by King Leopold for "service as an exemplary missionary in the King's colony." The criticism is levied by a young "DuBoyce," who attends one of Aunt Theodosia's "at homes" and exposes her medal as the emblem of the Victorian woman's "unwitting complicity with this despot who worked to death and brutalized and eventually exterminated thousands and thousands of African peoples" (200).
Fox, through her lawyers, also stressed that when the Sisters of Our Lady of Sion applied for a missionary visa, it was no stated that her missionary work would be limited to Quezon City.
Finally, Rui Kohiyama's study offsetting missionary sources with ample evidence from local sources and Japanese understandings of missionary work is a refreshing voice in this volume.
His experiences inspired his 18-year- old brother, Luke, who has just submitted an application to do missionary work.
He added: "Declan showed extraordinary bravery in his willingness to give even his own life for his missionary work."
"Wala silang sinabi tungkol sa missionary work ni Sister, tungkol doon sa isyu na pag-akusa nila na political work ito at iba pa (They did not mention anything about Sister's missionary work, about their accusations that this is a political work, and many more)," Taule asserted.
The Duterte administration's belligerent stance against the missionary work of Australian nun Patricia Fox sets a bad precedent for missionaries here as well as Filipino missionaries abroad.
Fox argued her activities in the country were part of her duty to engage in missionary work and not in partisan politics as alleged.
A conference will be held November 22-24, 2007, in Louvain, Belgium, to consider "research on the architectural staging and spatial implications" of world Christianity, with emphasis on "missionary architecture and space not so much as a backdrop for the missionary encounter, but as an essential part of this encounter in itself." Spatializing the Missionary Encounter: The Interaction Between Missionary Work and Space in Colonial Settings will focus on missionary work of all denominations in colonial settings (1800-1960).
In 1923 the young Father Bianchi arrived in the village and made it his headquarters for missionary work in the region.
Four appendices supplement Hunke's work by giving the reader chronological and alphabetical listings of organizational dates for churches, associations, and missionary work.