Date: August 27, 2013
(Images courtesy Wycliffe Associates)
It doesn't get much press in the secular venue, but if you're paying close attention to the scattered reports, you may have picked up on it: there's is a spike in the persecution of Christians.
This year, watchdog groups have noted the mass murders of a religious minority in places like Sudan, Nigeria, Syria, Egypt, Iraq, and Afghanistan. It's picking up steam across North Korea, Myanmar, Indonesia, India, and more.
All told, the countries listed here represent the blood of tens of thousands of Christians...and that begs the question: if it's so dangerous to be a follower of Christ, how is it that the Church is still growing?
Aside from the obvious answer: the Holy Spirit, there comes another answer: accessibility to Scripture. However, in places where people are dragged from their cars and murdered just for hanging a cross on the rearview mirror (Egypt), how safe is it to carry a Bible around in the pursuit of Truth?
Wycliffe Associates, an international organization that involves people in the acceleration of Bible translation, suggests that technology is a good fit for this need. They helped launch an initiative to use digital technology to bring the Scriptures to those living in areas where restricted religious freedom limits access to the Bible.
Bruce Smith, president and CEO of Wycliffe Associates, explains, "The most accessible technology in the world these days is the cellphone. So Scripture access through cellphones is actually a simple way for people who are in environments where visibility of access to Scripture could create a problem for them."
Inspired by 1 Timothy 6:12 the initiative called Operation Timothy uses technology such as Web sites and mobile devices to deliver the Scriptures in a way that poses less risk for those who seek access to it. Smith says, "It's a bit of a ‘hiding in plain sight' kind of opportunity. Everybody has a cellphone, everybody is working on the Web. Everybody is using those for personal and business use. So, having access to Scripture through that kind of mechanism really is a great facility for them in the volatile situation that they're in."
There are more than 65 countries in the world where Christians are persecuted, according to Open Doors USA. A survey by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life found that 75% of the world's population lives in nations where their religious freedoms are restricted. In some countries, converting to Christianity or owning a Bible is illegal and punishable by death or imprisonment.
In places where the government is known to monitor the Internet traffic of its citizens, the initiative is flexible. "Basically what you have to do is adapt the technology to the local circumstances and use what works in the local situation." What may not work for a smartphone may work for CDs, flash drives, and more.
The digital technology also makes publishing new translations a snap. "There are dozens of Scriptures that become ready for publishing. In the past paradigm, those would have to be shipped somewhere, be set in type, and be shipped across the world. Nowadays, as soon as the translation has been checked for accuracy and understandability, it can be published immediately."
A Christian known to Wycliffe Associates, whose name we cannot mention, lived in one such country and has experienced persecution throughout his life. He has been turned over to the police by his family for talking about his faith in Christ, and his father threatened to kill him for becoming a Christian. Because of his faith, he was forced to flee the country with his wife and children.
Through digital publishing, Scripture and other materials will be available for viewing and downloading in places where it would not otherwise be available or accessible. The 46-year-old organization is working to raise $108,000 to fund Operation Timothy efforts this year.
Wycliffe Associates involves people in accelerating the work of Bible translation through their time, talents, and treasure. Because millions of people around the world are still waiting to read the Scriptures in the language of their heart, Wycliffe Associates is working as quickly as they can to translate every verse of the Bible into every tongue to change every heart. The organization partners with nationals, mother tongue translators, staff, volunteers, and supporters to direct and fund these efforts, as well as provide logistics, networking, and technical support.
Through a growing global network, Wycliffe Associates is striving to overcome local limitations of time and resources to achieve the goal of beginning the translation of God's Word in every remaining language that needs it by 2025.