PRESS RELEASE (8 October 2018):

The 1000th New Testament translation completed with involvement from SIL and Wycliffe Bible Translators was launched on 11 August 2018, in a celebration in northwest Uganda. The translation is for the Keliko people and represents the first time they can hear and read the New Testament in their own language.

The Keliko people, whose homeland is in South Sudan, travelled from all around to be present. Many came from local refugee camps in Uganda, but others hitched rides from South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The event was attended by church leaders and local government dignitaries, as well as by international visitors from across Africa, Europe and North America.

The translation represents a triumph over adversity. Twice the translation efforts have been interrupted by civil war in South Sudan. On the first occasion, in the 1980s, most Keliko fled from South Sudan to the DRC (then Zaire) and Uganda, and translation stopped.

Translation work resumed in 1998, with linguistics specialists helping to finalise the writing system and providing training for Keliko translators. Literacy efforts enabled a number of Keliko to learn to read and write their language, some of whom then joined the translation team.

South Sudan gained its independence from Sudan in 2011. As the Keliko translation team was doing the final checking of their long-awaited New Testament, civil war again broke out. The team fled South Sudan, mostly to northern Uganda, but continued their work. ‘The translators are all Episcopalian pastors. They are very godly men and they pressed on,’ comments Jackie Marshall-Ringer, director of SIL in South Sudan. ‘Although we have provided technical and advisory support throughout, this is clearly a project that belongs to the Keliko church.’

‘The translation represents remarkable persistence on the part of the Keliko people to have the Bible in their own language,’ said James Poole, executive director of Wycliffe Bible Translators. ‘That it also happens to be the 1000th New Testament that Wycliffe and SIL have been involved in made it an extra special celebration.’

‘The 1000th New Testament is a major milestone for Wycliffe and SIL,’ James continues, ‘and represents many years of faithful service from Bible translation teams across the continents. However, there is still much work to be done – 1.5 billion people still do not have any Scriptures in their own language, and the New Testament has so far only been translated into about 30 per cent of the active languages in the world.’

A fuller version of how the New Testament was translated into the Keliko language can be found in the autumn 2018 edition of Words for Life, the magazine of Wycliffe Bible Translators.

Notes to editors:

1. For further information, call Jeremy Weightman on the Wycliffe Communications Team on 0300 303 1111.

2. Wycliffe Bible Translators seeks to enable all peoples to engage with the Bible in a language that speaks to them best. It does this through a range of activities, including Bible translation, literacy and Scripture use initiatives. Currently, Wycliffe has 363 people from the UK and Ireland serving 486 million people who speak 368 languages in 71 countries. Of the 7,000 languages spoken worldwide today, only about 700 have the whole Bible. Around 1.5 billion people (one in every five people) do not have the Bible in their language. As a result, translation of the Bible into people’s languages is one of the critical needs in world mission, to enable the growth of evangelism and discipleship ministries.

3. Images. You can download the following images to accompany the press release, by clicking on the ‘Image’ link:

Image 1 – A Keliko church leader holds up the newly launched Keliko New Testament at the dedication in northern Uganda

Image 2 – A Keliko man shows off the Keliko New Testament

Image 3 – A Keliko man reads the Keliko New Testament at the dedication

Image 4 – Many Keliko people are displaced from their homeland in South Sudan. A group of Keliko from DRC brought and played their musical instruments at the dedication

Image 5 – A Keliko boy reads the Keliko New Testament at the dedication

Image 6 – Church leaders from the Keliko people

Image 7 – The Keliko New Testaments were carried in the Ark-styled box in procession from the local Anglican church to the primary school grounds where the dedication took place

Image 8 – The Keliko translation team proofreading the books of Mark and Hebrews