Acting to express the love of God through love of mankind, to propagate a religious faith, to relieve misery or to foster progress, as individuals or groups. Education has been a major focus of this activity in the past. Medicine, education, agriculture, communications, development, law, youth work, relief to the poor and many other fields of activity are currently practised by missionaries.
The term missionary first came into use about 1622 when the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith of the Roman Catholic Church was instituted. Within the Catholic Church the priests and religious brothers played this role nearly exclusively throughout the 17th and 18th centuries. In the 19th Century it was expanded to include religious sisters and later the laity. This Century the term has expanded in meaning from overseas and among other faiths to any work anywhere by the faithful bring enlightenment and the alleviation of suffering.
Missionaries intend to impose cultural and religious systems on other people.
The Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential is a collaboration between UIA and Mankind 2000, started in 1972. It is the result of an ambitious effort to collect and present information on the problems with which humanity is confronted, as well as the challenges such problems pose to concept formation, values and development strategies. Problems included are those identified in international periodicals but especially in the documents of some 60,000 international non-profit organizations, profiled in the Yearbook of International Organizations.
The Encyclopedia includes problems which such groups choose to perceive and act upon, whether or not their existence is denied by others claiming greater expertise. Indeed such claims and counter-claims figure in many of the problem descriptions in order to reflect the often paralyzing dynamics of international debate. In the light of the interdependence demonstrated among world problems in every sector, emphasis is placed on the need for approaches which are sufficiently complex to encompass the factions, conflicts and rival worldviews that undermine collective initiative towards a promising future.
Non-profit, apolitical, independent, and non-governmental in nature, the UIA has been a pioneer in the research, monitoring and provision of information on international organizations, international associations and their global challenges since 1907.