Four Bible translators murdered in Middle East

Originally published in Mission Network News

Wycliff associates
(PHOTO: Wycliffe Associates)

Bible translation in Muslim-dominant areas is risky. Mix that occupation with animosity aimed at Muslim-Background Believers and what you get is a volatile and often explosive reaction.

That’s proven true for Wycliffe Associates. President/Chief Executive Officer Bruce Smith confirms the deaths of four national translators (first generation Christians) recently in a Middle Eastern country, unnamed for security reasons. “Radical militants came into the workplace where five men were working, and the militants came in and killed two men very quickly. As they ran out of ammunition, they then began beating the others that had survived.” Two other workers laid on top of the lead translator, saving his life. They died deflecting bludgeoning blows from the radicals’ spent weapons.

Why hasn’t this story been on the news? Because it’s not news. Smith explains, “This is actually normal. Christians are attacked, they’re beaten, they’re killed, they’re jailed, they’re tortured, and they’re terrorised in this part of the world routinely.” In fact, they expect it, and yet, “they have such a thirst and such a commitment to getting God’s Word to their people that these are risks that they accept.”

During the attack, the gunmen destroyed all the equipment in the office including the Print On Demand (POD) equipment. They burned all the books and other translation materials in the office. Smith adds, “By God’s grace, the digital copies of the translations that were underway in about eight languages were protected. They were backed up, and the work can continue.” You’d think that after a brutal attack like that, the translation team’s confidence would be shaken. In fact, quite the opposite is true, says Smith. “It increases their resolve to seeing God’s Word reach the hearts of the people who are caught in this kind of violence and hopelessness.”

They see that political and economic and other religious solutions are not answering the needs of the people, because “they’re not offsetting the violence and radical terrorism that’s occurring. They [the translators] really see God’s Word as their only hope.”

Moving Forward
What’s next? Let’s pray for the injured translators. Pray for others to step up and take on the translation task. “Lift these brothers and sisters up in prayer: recognise that they are labouring in very difficult circumstances. … Also be moved to respond in a tangible way, not only to care and be concerned about them, but to respond in stewardship and to be supportive of the strategies that are in place.”

Please pray for Wycliffe Associates as they come along side this translation team to assist them, to replace equipment, to help the martyrs’ families and the families of those hospitalised.

Please pray that a new location will be found that will provide safety, security, and the freedom to continue translation and printing. Pray for the safe delivery of new computers and POD equipment that Wycliffe Associates will be providing the translation team.

The work is moving forward because no one can afford to quit. Here’s why: “The days of reaching the easiest places are mostly behind us. … Getting God’s Word to the remaining nations of the world … is the challenge that we face, the challenge to which God calls us.”

P.S. Smith says on the heels of getting word of this situation, came word from another Bible translation team that four New Testaments have been completed in the past couple months. Soli Deo Gloria.

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