Rachel Pfeiffer of Christianity Today writes that translating the Bible in the nation of Chad has an unusual dynamic, as most translators are Muslim.
Roughly 55% of Chad is Muslim, with 41% Christian. Despite the official status of the French and Arabic languages, there are dozens of minority languages with no readily available local translation. While many were drawn to serve as translators through financial incentives, Christians noticed that Muslims had little trouble latching on to the project after reading familiar Abrahamic stories.
“We can’t take credit for having thought this up or made this strategy,” said Eric Steggerda, field operations manager for unfoldingWord, which partnered in the Central African nation with the Church Growth Project of Chad (Projet Croissance des Eglises au Tchad), or PCET.
“God brought this together in a way that created an open door that neither one of us really expected would be as effective as it was,” Steggerda said. “What we learned was that this is actually a very effective way to bridge a gap with Muslims. Bible stories are understandable.”
Muslims make up a little over half the population in Chad, and Arabic and French are the two official languages, though most people speak a variant called Chadian Arabic.
PCET identified 10 minority languages they wanted to translate and held informational workshops to recruit participants for the translation projects.
Another reason Muslims were interested in translating Christian material was how the project affirmed the significance of their languages.
“Many of these languages are struggling for importance in the world, as it were. There’s not much that’s actually in their mother tongue, so they rejoice when they find things that are, because it really speaks to them of the importance of their language,” Steggerda said. “Of course, anything in the mother tongue resonates in the heart better than other languages, so they’re very receptive to the idea of the Bible stories, for example, translated into their mother tongue.”
A full Bible translation for Chadian Arabic, the language spoken by the majority in the country, was completed in 2019, with copies delivered to three locations in Chad by Mission Aviation Fellowship in 2021.