Persecution of Bible translators is nothing new; in fact, it has often been the norm throughout history:
“Last week, during a small church service, the project advisor was taken into custody by the police. She was subjected to seven days of questioning while being fed only porridge.
While she was detained, her apartment was searched, and information was found that led the authorities to other people on her team. We requested that those teams lay low for a few weeks. Our communications are intentionally limited to protect their security.”
Reports like this one aren’t uncommon for God’s people in certain areas of the world. In fact, around half of the Bible translation projects we partner with at Seed Company are projects we can’t mention publicly without putting people at risk of religious persecution.
The remaining Bibleless people groups are the last ones left for a reason. They are some of the hardest to reach, both in terms of location and spiritual opposition. And more than ever, Christians in these regions are enduring persecution for embracing the God of the Bible—but they aren’t giving up or losing hope.
God’s Word Always Finds a Way
After receiving word that an extremist group had put him on a hit list, one translator said:
“We’ve been given much, and we have the responsibility to share Christ’s message. But being killed right now does not seem strategic, so we need to find a way to ‘be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.’”
That kind of wisdom plays out in the many ways Bible translators have found ways to continue the work despite the obstacles.
Translators often travel out of their community or even country to meet their teams at a lower-risk location.
2. Internet & Software
Teams safeguard their information by publishing it to cloud-based servers, and they often have special tools on their laptops that conceal their work from prying eyes. For the same reason, digital platforms are often the preferred publishing medium over printed books. Teams have seen enthusiastic responses from publishing, distributing, and advertising translated Scripture videos, graphics, and other resources on social media platforms.
3. Broadcast Media
Television and radio signals can often reach where the feet of Christ followers cannot travel.
4. Oral Strategies
Oral strategies are excellent and effective in high-sensitivity areas because there is no written material that could leave a trail and fall into the wrong hands. In addition, people often let down their guard with a person telling a story in a way that they might not when reading a book.
5. Partnership with Other NGOs
Whole communities benefit when the first Scriptures translated address their most pressing problems—like war-related trauma, women’s oppression, and HIV/AIDS. Through partnership with other NGOs, we can use God’s Word to bless both believers and those who have not yet found Christ.
6. Government Support
Sometimes, translated Scripture in sensitive regions does not need to be hidden at all! It is promoted by government officials as a way to foster pride in the language and increase literacy among the people. The Bible is viewed as good material for building cultural awareness and reading skills.
However, even if it’s used mainly for educational, cultural, or literacy purposes, we believe God’s Word is always alive and active, continually searching and convicting human hearts. God says of his Word, “I send it out, and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it” (Isaiah 55:11 NLT).
What Can You Do to Help?
Today, most unreached people live in regions where Christians are an oppressed minority. Some countries are hostile to any Christian presence. So the first thing needed is constant prayer.
Have you heard of Unceasing Prayer yet? It’s a global network that brings ministries, churches, and people together—including Seed Company, YWAM, Wycliffe, Deaf Harbor, Pioneers, The Word For The World, Finishing The Task, and many others—in prayer for the Bibleless!
Check out the schedule of Zoom prayer hours and link arms with fellow prayer warriors around the world. There are even prayer hours in other languages such as American Sign Language, Spanish, and Mandarin Chinese.
For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.
— Ephesians 6:12
When Bible translation work begins in high-risk areas, Seed Company helps local believers (even if there are only a few) establish their work.
When you give online, you’ll regularly receive inspiring testimonies of what God is doing all over the world through your support! If reporting on high-risk projects, we use pseudonyms and avoid other specific details in order to protect our field partners.