Last year, Britain spent a lot of time (for Britain) talking about the Bible. Many people, though, will be surprised to learn that 2012 marks the 400th anniversary of the translation of the Gospel of Mark into the Malay language, reportedly the earliest translation of the Bible into a non-European language. But by contrast to the KJV, celebrations of this have been fairly low key.
The KJV wasn’t actually the first Bible in English but it did get a royal stamp of approval. The Malay Bibles get a very different stamp: in recent years Malay Bibles have twice been impounded in large numbers and, more recently, they were required to be stamped ‘for Christians only‘.
Many traditionally Christian communities, particularly in Sabah and Sarawak, use the Malay Bible, even if it is in their second language. Of the 100+ languages that originate in Malaysia, only six have the complete Bible.
In Britain, Christians often feel persecuted. I’m currently reading that Christians in the UK don’t have a right to wear a cross. But in many states in Malaysia you can get into serious trouble if your Christian music is played too loud (if authorities think you’re playing music as an attempt to proselytize, you could even face imprisonment).
In Britain, you need to be sensitive about how you tell people about Jesus. In Malaysia all Christian public events are advertised as ‘for non-Muslims only’.
During 2012, let’s continue to celebrate having the Bible in English (and so many versions of it!). Let’s also celebrate that the complete Bible is available in 470 other languages and pray that all people who speak those languages may be free to access the Scriptures. And let’s keep praying and working towards the day when Scripture is read, heard and celebrated in every language!
*The country itself has existed in its current form for 50 years, but the languages and the people have been around for a lot longer!
For some further information about praying for Malaysia visit worlddayofprayer.my. Article by Peter Brassington.