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Missionaries as Communicators of Foreign Cultures

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This article examines the writings of Finnish missionaries: what the missionaries wrote about local people and cultures and how the content of their writings changed during the latter part of the 20th century, which was a period of major political and cultural change in the countries where the missionaries worked. The data consists of 526 writings published in the major Finnish mission journal Suomen Lähetyssanomat during the years 1946-1989. The primary methodological approach is quantitative, and the data is mainly analysed in a descriptive manner. Statistical tests are utilized to show the association between independent and dependent variables. The results are interpreted with the help of the concept of otherness. Missionaries’ writings reveal a more positive attitude towards local people than local cultures, but during the study period a change towards a more positive attitude to culture can be detected. The longer the history of Finnish missions in a particular region, the more positive the missionaries’ attitudes towards local people are. During the study period, the problem-oriented descriptions of cultures shift to solution-oriented descriptions. These changes indicate efforts towards a positive interpretation of otherness. The study reveals the possibilities that quantitative analysis may open up for mission studies.

Affiliations: 1: Professor of Religious Education, University of Helsinki ; 2: Professor emerita in Church and Social Studies, University of Helsinki


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