From time to time, we talk about projects that are ‘sensitive’. We hold back names of people, places and languages ‘to keep people safe’, and sometimes they end up with a code name (marked by a *) or their names are represented by just a letter. Why? Surely in this age of instant media, you can’t keep a translation project secret, never mind a people group? Well, that is what we must do in order to keep people safe and ensure the work can continue.
Take this example:
A translation of the full Bible is nearly complete in a language of Central Asia. Though it is located in a sensitive area, pre-publication drafts are already being used, and people are being impacted by God’s word.
In response, a believer wrote to the translation team: ‘I wanted to say thank you so much for all these years of your faithful support of our Bible translation. Now the whole Bible is complete! This is a historic event in the lives of our people. We have never had the word in our own language before. Thanks to God and to his faithful servants, we now have the complete Bible! What a joy this is!’
Many of the Bible translation projects we are engaged in – such as the one referred to above in Central Asia – are being done in places where it’s extremely difficult to be a Christian or to do Christian work openly. In some countries or regions, the government doesn’t endorse – or doesn’t want to be seen to endorse – any form of Christian activity; in others, the hostility towards Christian work comes from the dominant (state) culture, or from local cultures or families.
There are even some projects happening in otherwise free, open or Christian countries where those involved in the work can’t say so openly because of where the language originates from, or because of what other people might say or do if such knowledge became public. In these cases, it could be unsafe for any of the people involved in these projects, or their activities or locations, to be identified in any way.
As situations change and new issues arise – such as political unrest or instability; ethnic conflict escalating into outbreaks of violence; hostility between different religious groups, or from the state-supported or local-area religions – persecution increases, and the translation work goes underground. Many of the people groups yet to be reached for the gospel are also in geographically very isolated or hard-to-reach places where there may be few (or no) roads or communication networks to connect them with the outside world. And many are in places where the prevailing religion is very hostile to the message of the Scriptures, meaning believers and those involved in spreading the gospel risk severe persecution – including torture, jail or death – for their faith.
Please keep praying for and supporting projects like these. For the reasons given above, they are kept anonymous in our publications – but while that can make it harder to pray, these are also the areas that need it most. These are the places where the translators and their families are at greatest risk, and where the people they work with can face very challenging situations and consequences. But these are also the kinds of scenarios where the hope and comfort of God’s word is invaluable. Please join us in praying for and supporting the work so that it can continue, despite whatever may come against it.