Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Well, first of all, for a very few Bible translators, it leads to an invitation to Buckingham Palace!

Mary Steele, the first Irish member of Wycliffe Bible Translators UK, received the MBE for services to linguistics, literacy and Bible translation in Ghana. And I got the chance to go with her for the investiture. Mary was also interviewed on Ulster Television about her many years with Wycliffe.

Mary Steele MBE at Buckingham Palace with some colourful friends

Mary Steele MBE at Buckingham Palace with some colourful friends 10 May 2006

However what sparked my reminiscing about Mary today was finding a story posted by Wycliffe colleague Ed Lauber about one of the two Ghanaian Bibles that Mary was involved in translating – the Bible for the Bimoba people of Northern Ghana.

I have written before about Solomon Sule-Saa, a Ghanaian who has done extensive research on the impact of translating the Bible into the Konkomba and Bimoba languages of northern Ghana. In a summary of his research presented to a conference in September, he said of the Konkomba and Bimoba peoples:

“The Bible now provides the key to understand the world”

During an ethnic conflict which was so serious the Ghana army had to intervene, the Bimoba lost confidence in the neutrality and good will of the Ghana government. They saw no way forward but to continue fight for their rights. In a war council, several leaders quoted from the translated Bible, arguing that that Jesus way is the way of reconciliation. So, abandoning their own wisdom they agreed to engage in peace talks moderated by the government they no longer trusted. It worked. They got what they were seeking through negotiation. Now that is faith – following the teachings of the Bible when your life and your livelihoods are at stake. This story shows that the Bible in these languages is doing more than influencing the decisions of individuals. It is also affecting the decisions made by the chiefs for the whole group. Now that is being transformed.

Wycliffe UK’s tag line used to be Translated Scripture Transforms Lives – it still does.


Mary Steele in conversation with Marlene Ferguson at Wycliffe:Live 2009 when we marked her 50 years with Wycliffe

Doing your sums? Mary will be 54 years with Wycliffe sometime this year and continues to work as a translation consultant in Ghana.

Find out how you could be part of your generation translating Scriptures to transform lives.

Or try a taster at Two Week Stint this summer in France!


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Radovan Karadzic

Driving to the office this morning, I listened to a report of the opening of the Radovan Karadzic trial at The Hague. Karadzic denies 10 charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity during the war in the 1990s.

The genocide charge against him relates to the deaths of more than 7,000 Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim) men and boys in Srebrenica in 1995. It was the worst atrocity in Europe since the end of World War II.

Later in the office, I read this morning’s episode of the account of Joseph’s life in Genesis 42 on SU WordLive. One of the commentaries referred to comments from the Croatian theologian Miroslav Volf’s memories of the 1990s in the Balkans.

Croatian theologian Miroslav Volf has explored deeply the theology of forgiveness and reconciliation. His book Exclusion and Embrace grew out of his own experience of the brutal wars that engulfed the Balkans after the collapse of communism. In the Introduction he writes:

‘After I finished my lecture Professor Jürgen Moltmann stood up and asked one of his typical questions, both concrete and penetrating: “But can you embrace a četnik?” It was the winter of 1993.

For months now the notorious Serbian fighters called “četnik” had been sowing desolation in my native country, herding people into concentration camps, raping women, burning down churches and destroying cities. I had just argued that we ought to embrace our enemies as God has embraced us in Christ. Can I embrace a četnik – the ultimate other, so to speak, the evil other? What would justify the embrace? Where would I draw the strength for it? What would it do to my identity as a human being and as a Croat?’

(M Volf, Exclusion and Embrace, Abingdon, 1996)

The Joseph story in Genesis is about lots of things: about how God was working through one family to prepare a people who would ultimately have the responsibility to bless the surrounding nations and point them to God; about how God was working through others including Ishmaelite slave traders and the Egyptian Pharaoh to bring his plans to fruition.

But at the personal level, God was teaching Joseph about forgiveness and reconciliation… and reading this story prompts us to consider the importance of forgiveness and reconcilation in our own lives.

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Having just a few hours previously posted Has William Tyndale had the recognition he deserves?, I am indebted to colleague David Gilchrist for his link to a Guardian report entitled…

Richard Dawkins

Richard Dawkins the arch-atheist backs Michael Gove’s free Bible plan

Author of The God Delusion says providing free Bibles to state schools is justified by its impact on the English language

I was intrigued but, reading on, I discovered what he was backing –  Michael Gove‘s plan to send free King James Bibles to every state school.

As Dawkins reveals in today’s Observer, support for the Bible plan is justified on the grounds of literary merit and he lists a range of biblical phrases which any cultivated English speaker will instantly recognise. These include “salt of the Earth”, “through a glass darkly”, and “no peace for the wicked”. Dawkins states: “A native speaker of English who has not read a word of the King James Bible is verging on the barbarian.

Much as I would love everyone in the UK and Ireland to read the Bible regularly and have their lives changed by so doing, I can’t help being both cynical and disappointed.

Cynical, along with others, that…

The education secretary’s plan to send a King James Bible to every school is a tactic to keep us worrying about small change while billions are wasted elsewhere

… or something like that – see here

Disappointed, that we are back to the ‘missing the point of what the Bible is all about’ – as seen and heard so much during the 2011 4ooth anniversary of the King James Bible and in Dawkins’ utterings.  The Bible is not just a work of literary merit. It is God’s message in which he reveals himself to his created world and created peoples – and as a member of Wycliffe Bible Translators, I believe passionately that God wants that message to be understood by everyone in the language they understand best. I humbly suggest that very few if anyone’s heart language today is early 17th century English; and certainly not the language of 21st century school children in English state schools!

And disappointed again that the martyred William Tyndale continues to be ignored as the KJB is worshipped on the altar of secular literary merit.

Which brings me to why I am agreeing with the National Secular Society who say in the Guardian article that it is a waste of £375,000.

If that money is available, Mr Gove, please send it on to Wycliffe Bible Translators UK and we will put it to much more productive use on behalf of the 2,000 plus languages with no Bible whatsoever.

And to Mr Dawkins, my hope is that he will read the Bible in whatever version, so that he no longer sees everything “through a glass darkly” but comes to know the God who created him and everything else in the universe.

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Mali National Assembly

More than once, listening to Bamakois vent their frustrations at their unresponsive government and politicians, I’ve been reminded of my own country, where we have the best Congress money can buy and where corporations have the freedom to bankroll candidates who advance their interests over and above the common good. Whether in Washington or in Bamako, we need to confront the power imbalances that keep democracy from functioning.

This quotation is from the blog Bridges from Bamako, which is written by Bruce Whitehouse, an American anthropologist who has lived in Bamako for some time and writes with insight on the current political situation in Mali.

It is interesting how he compares the interaction of politics and vested interests in Bamako and in Washington – and in the light of current long running UK news stories – perhaps London can be added to the list.

Three very different cultures. Great similarities when humans too often work on the premise of  ‘Every man for himself, every man for himself.’

PS I continue to pray for peace and stability for all Malians and for the work of Bible translation in Mali to continue.

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Now the whole world had one language and a common speech.  As men moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there.  They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar.  Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”   But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower that the men were building. The LORD said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them.  Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.”   So the LORD scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city.  That is why it was called Babel—because there the LORD confused the language of the whole world. From there the LORD scattered them over the face of the whole earth.   Genesis 11:1-9

RBS to cut 3,500 jobs in investment bank shake-up

The Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) has said it will cut a further 3,500 jobs, with most of them to happen this year.  The cuts are part of a reorganisation and shrinkage of its investment bank.  The losses, which will be split between its UK and international offices, come on top of 2,000 cuts announced earlier.  BBC news 12 January 2012

Today we see individuals and groups striving to outdo one another in the height and grandeur of their buildings. People and nations invest time, wealth, and political and technological expertise endeavouring to ensure security and a name. Associated is a fear of loss of identity through being ‘scattered’.

God’s evaluation is that such attitudes and actions are disastrous for the future of his world. The inhabitants’ focus is ‘us’ and ‘what we can do’, ‘our security, reputation and identity’. How different will be God’s subsequent action, as the genealogy (vs 10–32) leads on to Abraham’s family and a fresh beginning. God calls Abraham to leave familiar surroundings and his security, to go to some unknown place where ‘I will make your name great’. That is the path to security and a name, and blessing for ‘all peoples on earth’ (12:1–4).  SU WordLive comment on Genesis 11 by GJ Wenham

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While my blog has been pretty quiet of late, my friend and colleague Eddie Arthur has been more typically prolific.

When Prime Minister David Cameron recently spoke at the KJB 400th celebrations at Oxford and commented on the teaching of the Bible for our somewhat broken society, I wanted to write something. But I couldn’t think of anything that might have been useful to the debate… a lack of inspiration or a divine prompt to shut up and avoid writing something inane!

However Eddie has written something akin to what I wished I could have written – and did it much better: The PM, The Bible and Cultural Christianity.

Yesterday, in a speech delivered to clergy in Oxford, the Prime Minister added his voice to the many who have spoken up over the last year (read it here). I tend to avoid political comment on this blog, but given that the Prime Minister has wandered into my territory, I reckon I can make a few comments on what he said.

Here are a few extracts from Eddie’s comments – but I urge you to read the whole thing for yourself.

It is good to see the Bible being discussed in the public arena. Famously, Tony Blair “didn’t do God”, so it’s good to see a politician who is prepared to speak out on these issues. Whatever the merits of the content of his speech (and they are mixed, at best) the fact that the Prime Minister has got people talking about the Bible is something we should be grateful for.

The Bible is not a book about Values. Though the Prime Minister had a number of good things to say, his speech was undermined because, for all of his classical education, he doesn’t really understand what the Bible is about. He never mentions the central narrative of the Bible: God reaching out to reconcile a fallen world and a fallen humanity to himself through the death of Christ on the Cross. Indeed, as far as I can tell, the words cross or crucifixion never get a mention.

And in a kind of bittersweet conclusion…

David Cameron has done us a great favour in bringing the Bible into the public discourse, but though he has much to say that is interesting and of some value, he ultimately misses the point, which is sad. We need to continue to pray for him and all of those in authority.

Do read it all for yourself: The PM, The Bible and Cultural Christianity

That’s enough for now, but I will comment soon on Eddie’s thoughts in an article in The Guardian’s Comment is free section…

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Dear Mr. Cameron,

Please find below our third and final (for now at least) suggestion for fixing the UK’s economy.

I should add, Mr Cameron, that I am slightly apprehensive that some of my readers are equating these ideas with some of your current policies eg the NHS and weekly bin collections and thinking that I, like you, am totally serious in my suggestions.

The third suggestion should definitely be taken with a pinch of salt…

Is it just me, or does anyone else find it amazing that during the mad cow epidemic our government could track a single cow, born in Appleby almost three years ago, right to the stall where she slept in the county of Cumbria?

And, they even tracked her calves to their stalls. But they are unable to locate 125,000 illegal immigrants wandering around our country. Maybe we should give each of them a cow.

Thanks to a friend for forwarding these suggestions to me: original source unknown.

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