'Bringing God's Word to My People': Iranian Christians Translate Bible into Local 'Heart Languages'
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Christians in Iran put their lives on the line each time they open the Word of God or share the Gospel with family members. Now some underground believers are risking their lives to translate the Bible into their local dialects so their friends and neighbors can have access to the scriptures.
Through the Bible translation agency unfoldingWord, thousands of Christians are translating the Word into their "heart language" or native language first learned at home.
"Every person in the world needs the Bible in the language they understand the best," says unfoldingWord, a non-profit that helps church networks with Bible translation.
For many, that means the dialect native to their culture, region, or community.
"There are over 70 ethnic backgrounds in Iran. There are over 6,000 villages. From one village to another, the languages might change. Of course Farsi is a spoken language, but 55% of Iranians don't speak Farsi at all," Iranian minister Lazarus Yeghnazar told unfoldingWord.
For one Iranian translator, "Miriam," having help with converting the Bible into her local dialect helps her not only understand the Gospel but effectively communicate with those she loves.
"Having the gospel in my heart language makes it much easier to talk to my family about Jesus," she told the Christian Post.
As CBN News reported, unfoldingWord works with missionaries who are seeking to plant churches in remote areas but lack access to Bible translations in the languages spoken in those areas.
The organization adopted the Church-Centric Bible Translation (CCBT) method to equip churches in these communities with the content, technology tools, and training resources to translate the Bible for themselves.
Translators like "Miriam" are dedicated to their work because they want to bring hope to other Iranians.
"I cannot even imagine leaving this work unfinished. I must complete this work and see the result. I want to see my beloved ones experience salvation in Christ," Miriam said. "This is my dream: that my people can talk about God and speak his name freely without any hesitation; without any fear, they can talk about God."
Iran is ranked as the eighth most dangerous country to be a Christian by Open Doors' World Watch List.
"All of these oppressive countries, like Sudan, like Iran, and some others we could name, are trying to Islamasize their whole population," "Evan Thompson" with unfoldingWord told the outlet.
"And one of the ways that they do that is by forcing them to speak this one national language, and it's causing their heart languages to die out," he continued.
He added, "It's very much like anybody that comes to America from someplace else, and we put them in American schools to learn English. Unless their family makes it a point to keep their native languages…alive in their families, by the second or third generation, the kids can't speak their native language anymore."
For "Miriam", understanding the scriptures in her native dialect was vital for her to understand the Gospel.
"I have a Bible in Farsi, and I can read it. But I cannot understand the more complicated concepts in it because Farsi is not my heart language. I couldn't establish a relationship with the Bible in Farsi. I'm very fluent in Farsi. I studied hard and had great teachers. Still, I cannot establish a relationship with the Bible in Farsi," she shared.
"How about other people who don't have my educational advantages? My family and friends? Having the Gospel in my heart language makes it much easier to talk to my family about Jesus. They can understand and accept Him easily," she continued.
With that goal in mind, unfoldingWord is making it possible for hundreds of translators to keep up with the demand for the Word of God.
"God is my Father. I feel deeply honored to be part of this work of bringing God's Word to my people," Miriam said.
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