The Banen people, speaking the Tunen language, live between a densely forested area and savannah in two provinces (Centre and Littoral) of Cameroon. Some of the population live close to the main road but most live in remote, isolated areas. The Banen population living in the Littoral province are cut off geographically from those living in the Centre province by rainforest, big rivers and a lack of connecting roads.

Fact file

  • Country: Cameroon
  • Speakers: 35,300
  • Start date: 2005
  • Projected end date: 2018

The Banen are farmers whose main crops are cocoa and coffee, the sale of which helps them to feed and clothe themselves, educate their children, and take care of their medical needs. Houses are often made of mud blocks with zinc roofs, while in remote areas roofs are made with raffia mats. The lack of some basic facilities such as electricity, roads and hospitals makes their lives difficult. The literacy rate in the Banen region is not high.

Since the advent of Christianity in the Banen area around 1920, the majority of the Banen people claim to be Christians. However, members of the churches remain ignorant of biblical truths. This weakens their faith and leaves them spiritually fragile, especially because of their low levels of formal education. There is a real need to have the Scriptures in the Tunen language in order to meet the spiritual needs of the Banen people. The need for literacy is also strongly felt within the community, as very few people are able to read the materials which have already been produced. Literacy classes are underway, with 80 students currently enrolled.

Years of mobilisation and vision sharing have enabled church leaders to recognise the impact of the language barrier on the wellbeing and growth of the church in the Banen community where everything was done in French. With assistance from our partners in Cameroon, the aim is to translate the New Testament into the Tunen language, to develop literacy, and also to encourage the effective use of the translated Scriptures by the churches. Ten years since the project began, great progress has been made. The whole of the New Testament has now been completed, and the Banen community is eagerly awaiting the official launch.

Project goals

  • to translate the New Testament and portions of the Old Testament
  • to establish a community-based literacy programme which is supervised by the church
  • to see people’s lives transformed through having access to the Bible in their language
  • to produce useful literature on spiritual and cultural topics as well as materials for the improvement of living conditions

Prayer points:

  • for all Banen people, especially church leaders and Christians, to see the need to be united in supporting the project
  • for effective preparations for the New Testament dedication and launch
  • praise God for the steady Christian witness of the team members to the community around them.
July 2018

Recent progress

Since the typesetting of the New Testament was completed at the end of last year, the principal translator, Jean Edouard Yembe, has continued to tour the Banen region to present his ‘Translator’s Copy’ of the Tunen New Testament to the churches. This has greatly encouraged the Banen people, for whom it is a dream come true to have portions of the Bible in their language within sight, and the faith of many has been boosted. Social networks are also promoting the New Testament, and are reaching out to Banen people both inside and outside Cameroon.

Banen translation team
Translation team members attend the launch of the Translator’s Copy of the New Testament

The ongoing development of the Tunen language is now the main focus of the Banen Project, as the churches wish to have enough literate people who will be able to offer Bible readings at meetings. An exciting development is that local contributions – both in terms of funding and personnel – towards the literacy work have increased.

Earlier this year, the Bureau of the Inter-Church Committee (ICC) met with the Banen Project team to discuss the literacy activities, and the ICC has now agreed to take responsibility for the ongoing literacy development strategy. Several appointments have been made to ensure there will be people in place to head up the basic and functional literacy activities.

Praise and prayer

Give thanks for:

  • the happy completion of the translation work on the Tunen New Testament, and the way this has encouraged the churches and the Banen people
  • all the partners who contributed to this work – the people, the churches, the donors and all who faithfully prayed for the completion of the New Testament
  • the literacy programme, which was begun last year, is now organised, also the ICC has now put literacy strategies in place for the future
  • the favourable report of the Banen Project across social media channels – especially that it is reaching Banen people far and wide.

Pray for:

  • more commitment and vision from the ICC, including its ability to raise funds for the literacy work, and the literacy strategies it has set up
  • the Lord to touch the lives of the Banen people, that many will know and walk in the way of eternal life
  • the seriousness of and dedication to the literacy work to be sustained, because if people cannot read, they cannot access the Bible in this way
  • the preparations for the launch of the New Testament, and the continued mobilisation of the community for this event
  • improved strategies for Scripture-engagement work, which is crucial at this time
  • the upcoming forum on the theme of ‘Gospel and Culture’, to be held in the local town hall.