International (WAS/MNN) — As hot as the situation in Iraq and Syria has been in recent weeks, it’s possible that it’s about to get worse soon.
On June 18, Ramadan begins, and that usually means trouble as religious fervor stirs. ISIS has laid out new rules for the cities it controls during the holy month. Why should Ramadan 2015 be any more dangerous than holy months of the past?
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) has a history of taking advantage of the spiritual emphasis to pursue their goals. Barbaric forms of torture filled the headlines at this time last year. The terror group is regarded as even more ruthless than al-Qaeda, from which it sprang. Fear keeps people cowed, and the only power in the world of Islamic extremism is wielded by the hand holding the biggest weapon.
Wycliffe Associates, through their Scriptures for New Frontiers initiative, is supporting local Bible translators living in the Middle East and Central Asia, where there is a widespread, deadly presence of these extremists.
Over the past year, 11 of the 28 Bible translators living and working in this region have been reported dead or missing. Bruce Smith, President and CEO of Wycliffe Associates, says while these co-workers are mourned, the national translation teams are committed to their work. “They see the desperation of the people around them–their neighbors and their family members without hope–and they desperately want to bring the good news of the Gospel to them.”
In this region, nearly 1,000 languages–representing 280 million people–are without the Scriptures. Bible translators are using creative means to address that need. Smith explains the importance of “having the ability to both publish Scripture digitally so that [translators] can access it through their phones, but also create applications that allow them to interact in the translation process and even participate in drafting and checking Scripture on their phones or other tablet-type computers or those kinds of things–in a sense, hiding in plain sight.”
Translations of the books of Genesis, Luke, and Acts have already been completed by some and are ready for production and distribution. The Scriptures for New Frontiers initiative provides open-source Bible translation technology, training to support national-led translation efforts, digital Scripture distribution, and resources to empower local underground translators.
Smith explains the rationale behind the urgency to resource these national translators. “The reality is that radical Islam is not an attractive ideology. Sure, it has attracted additional radicals, but in reality, life upon the ground under that kind of political and religious authority is not pleasant at all, and it’s driving people away from Islam in numbers that are unprecedented.”
In fact, says Smith, over the last two decades, many have been coming to Christ. As first generation Muslim-Background Believers, they are ideal for Bible translation work. “These are the people that know the language, know the culture, and know the environment. [They] see God’s Word as the only way out and the only way forward, so there’s an upsurge in interest in Bible translation in those arenas.”
Dreams and visions are also widely reported in the region, and the Church is growing rapidly in these countries through the sharing of God’s Word. Wycliffe Associates is currently raising $300,000 to equip local translators with the technology and training they need to work more safely. Smith encourages the global Church to “look at this as a huge opportunity instead of a threat. Bible translation, discipleship, evangelism, church planting, church growth: all of these things are developing beyond our view. So use these as a reminder to pray, [and] integrate them into our own stewardship of how we support the Church around the world.” Wycliffe Associates is striving to achieve the goal of beginning the translation of God’s Word into every remaining language by 2025.