Decades of East Africa unrest create a Bible translator diaspora

By April 25, 2024
Wikimedia Commons, Ethiopia, Tigray, IDP

Eritrea (MNN) — Eritrea and Ethiopia’s relationship is complex. In 2018, these two nations ended twenty years of conflict, which is estimated to have killed a hundred thousand people and displaced one million. 

Then, only two years later, Eritrea fought alongside Ethiopia against a paramilitary group in Ethiopia’s Tigray region. That war ended in 2022, but in December of last year Eritrean troops were still present in Tigray. In the past two weeks, unrest has flared up again in Tigray, displacing nearly 29,000 people.

Even as concerns for the region’s long-term stability rise, an Eritrean Bible translation team is at work own people: the Kunama of Eritrea.

“They (the Kunama) have for decades experienced hardship through civil war in their country,” says Meg Hunt with Wycliffe USA. “Many of them have migrated to neighboring countries — and then actually several of them have come to North America as part of their refugee experience.” Wikimedia Commons, stock photo, Tigray, Ethiopia, Eritrea

Population displacement due to Tigray conflict, 12 January 2021 (Photo courtesy of USAID via Wikimedia Commons)

Kunama translation teams live Ethiopia and North America. Together, they feel the effects of the regional tensions. 

“For the team that is translating the Old Testament (in Ethiopia), they are being targeted by the local government, so it’s been hard for them to continue to feel safe in that environment,” Hunt says.

“Although they have resettled into different cities (in Ethiopia), in more rural areas refugees experience fear of being relocated to refugee camps back in Northern Ethiopia where there is still unrest.”

For the North America team, who is working on the New Testament, their pressures are less dangerous but still real.

“It’s actually pretty incredible that it’s entirely volunteer-based in North America. The challenges for them are really that they’re balancing a lot. They’ve got a lot of things of care for their own families, their day jobs. But again, they’re so committed to translating God’s Word,” Hunt says. 

“One of the things that is really unique about the translation is that because they are a diaspora team, working together across multiple time zones and continents, keeping in step with one another is an opportunity and a challenge that they have.”

Meet this dedicated Bible translation team here. Several books of the Bible have already gone through community testing — one of the final steps before they go to print or audio publishing. The books are Ruth, Jonah, Haggai, Matthew and Galatians.

You can be part of this Bible translation project spanning the globe through your prayers and your partnership. Learn more and sign up for prayer updates here.

“Pray for the safety of these Kunama team members, especially those in Ethiopia. Pray for the just energy and stamina to continue this work,” Hunt says. 



Header photo of internally displaced persons in Tigray, April 2021 courtesy of Rastakwere via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0)

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