Problem

Ill-considered missionary activity

Other Names:
Missionary alienation
Inappropriate religious proselytizing by foreign missionaries
Nature:
Religious missions have been divided into 'foreign' and 'home' categories. 'Home' category missionaries deal in particular with the poverty stricken, the homeless, and the social outcasts or misfits.

Those in 'foreign' categories mainly deal with indigenous peoples on whom they may impose a totally new moral code to which tribespeople find it very difficult to adapt. Often missionaries tell the people that their customs are primitive and barbaric, and use education and comparison with western ways to embarrass the young people into disowning their cultural values and practices. But having done so, native peoples may find themselves dependent on 'Western' economic and social structures. Because they are inadequately educated and discriminated against on an ethnic basis; and because they have little experience in market economic structures, this dependence renders them easy prey to exploitation, poverty, disease, malnutrition and death.

Incidence:
In 1994 China banned proselytizing by foreign missionaries because of their tendency to engage in destructive, independent and unauthorized activities inspired by culturally insensitive values. Activities by Christian missionaries have provoked riots by China's Muslim minority. Churches there have been accused of harbouring political dissidents.
Claim:
Christianity, and Islam are contemporary missionary religions. Missions are widespread, having followed or preceded colonialism. Missionary zeal has been the cause of colonial expansion and acted as pretext for war. When colonists arrive, they have the Bible and the indigenous people the land; before long, the situation is reversed.
Counter Claim:
Missionaries show selfless dedication to the lives of the people to whom they preach and minister. Christian missionaries were active in Europe extirpating paganism up to the 11th century, although their work had largely been completed during the Dark Ages. The indigenous peoples of Europe, speaking many different languages and divided into numerous tribes, gave up human sacrifice and tribal wars when they embraced Christianity, and they went on to raise the greatest of civilizations with its help. Islam, Judaism and Buddhism in their own missionary zeal advanced social conditions wherever they penetrated. In some war torn areas the only foreigners to stay to offer aid are missionaries.
Broader Problems:
Moralism
Religious conflict
Related Problems:
Evangelism
Cultural invasion
Problem Type:
F: Fuzzy exceptional problems
Date of last update
08.01.2004 – 00:00 CET