A Burning Need for the Word of God in China
Muslim Background Believers (MBBs) and Buddhist Background Believers (BBBs), notably Tibetan believers, are found to be the most persecuted Christian groups in China. Open Doors has shifted focus towards serving them. Chinese official statistics stated that there are around 6.4 million Tibetans and over 20 million Muslim populations in China. One of the burning needs that MBB leaders and BBB leaders shared with us is Bibles, not Mandarin ones which people can easily access online or in government-registered churches, but Bibles in minority languages such as Uyghur, Kazakh, Tibetan, etc.
Many MBBs and BBBs are surviving under the radar of the Chinese authorities. Muslims and Tibetans in China have their own languages, and many of them can’t speak Mandarin, which is the most common language used in China. Additionally, there is a significant need for audio and video presentations of the gospel, as many of these believers are illiterate. Although China has experienced rapid economic growth and urbanization, most of the areas that BBBs and MBBs live in are remote areas far from the coastal regions.
To translate the Bible into those languages requires a lot of spiritual and financial resources. It also requires careful planning on how to safely bring the Bibles to BBBs and MBBs in China.
“We need as many Bibles in our own languages as possible,” Patrick*, a MBB church leader expressed. “We don’t know where to find them, so please bring as many as you can. Many brothers and sisters need them!”
When a local MBB received the Bibles in his own language, his eyes were brightened as if he had spotted a treasure. He held them close to his chest and said, “Thank you so much, brother! I’ve been dreaming about having a Bible for so long!” We later heard that he gave his Bible to a friend who was very interested in reading it.
Since early 2017, increasing security control and restrictions have been enforced in Xinjiang. This aims to control potential extreme Muslim activities and avoid conflicts between Muslims and Christians. Heavily armed police forces guard every street, day and night. Checking of people’s bags and even cell phones are frequent in public areas, e.g. in shopping malls, in cinemas. Hence, delivery of Christian books and electronic materials would be easily discovered and risky.
Despite these challenges, Open Doors strives to support MBBs and BBBs with contextualized Christian materials in their own languages. As some contextualized materials for MBBs are available in China, we connect with Chinese partners in producing and delivering such materials to the hands of MBBs. We also support MBBs to develop their own contextualized materials
“It is important for Tibetans to have Bibles in their own language. I once met with a Tibetan believer who graduated from university in China. He was not used to reading from a Chinese Bible. I showed him an Indian Bible. He preferred to read an Indian Bible and asked me for this Bible as a gift. Indian is a language close to Tibetan language,” shared by Xiao Yun*, China Field Director of Open Doors.
Xiao Yun also told us that Old Testament in Tibetan language is important for Tibetan believers to worship the only true God under their culture of polytheism. “I understand we have to worship the only true God when I read the Old Testament. The Lord repeatedly blamed the Israelites for worshiping idols,” said one Tibetan believer.
Open Doors joined a partnership with a couple of overseas groups in translating the Old Testament into the Tibetan language, which is a huge project, requiring long-term commitment. To test the quality of the Old Testament in the Tibetan language among Tibetan believers, we plan to publish a few books in a year or two. Because many Tibetans are illiterate, an audio Bible (New Testament) in three major Tibetan dialects, namely Khams, Amdo and Central Lhasa, is being developed.
Please pray that:
1. The Lord would protect MBBs, BBBs and co-workers serving them when they meet with each other to develop and deliver Christian materials.
2. MBBs and BBBs would continue be faithful to the Lord and live a life that’s worthy of His calling.
* Names changed for security reasons