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.