Bible society solicits General Overseers, others support for Bible translation
Dr. Dare Ajiboye is the General Secretary/Chief Executive Officer, Bible Society of Nigeria (BSN). In this interview with ISAAC TAIWO, he shares the relevance of Bible to Christianity, as well as BSN’s activities as a non-profit organisation, its history, challenges and the need for Churches and Christians of every denomination to support its activities, particularly, Bible translation.
What informed the founding of Bible Society of Nigeria (BSN)?
The founding of the BSN was informed by the need to have a national Bible Society that would make the Word of God available in Nigerian languages. Before February 8, 1966 when BSN was founded, there was the British and Foreign Bible Society as far back as 1807 doing Bible translation in Nigeria. That is why the first local language Bible, the Efik Bible, was published in 1868. Yoruba was published in 1884, Igbo 1906 and Hausa 1932, among others. The American Bible Society and The Bible Society of Scotland were also in Nigeria before 1966, but it became necessary to have our own Bible Society to take over from them.
How do you get that support locally?
It has been a herculean task getting churches to support us, in the sense that some churches see us as a competitor. We are servants of the church because we provide the most important tool for the church, which is the Bible. We expect all churches and Christians in Nigeria to support what we are doing. Yearly, we donate Bibles worth millions of naira to different categories of people, including prisoners, people with visual disability, the deaf and other less privileged.
On how we are supported, we have membership registration. When people pay their registration fees and annual dues, we get support for our various Bible translation projects and organise our life-transforming programmes that help people interact with the Word of God. So, if these members are faithful in paying their annual dues after registration, it becomes a source of income to us. We also expect different church denominations to have us on their annual budget. Some individuals are also contributing to BSN’s coffers. They make it a point of duty on monthly basis to donate for the Bible cause. There are corporate organisations that occasionally give donations to us. Basically, these are the ways we get our funding.
For example, we have a new partnership programme for our translation, which is basically to make the Bible’s translation very easy and all-inclusive. Translating the Bible into one language costs over ₦40m. Demanding this colossal amount from an individual may be a difficult thing, but not impossible. A single person has given us money upfront to translate two Bibles. We have someone who is paying salaries of translators and other staff working on one translation project. Despite the economic hardship confronting an average Nigerian, some people have taken it as the work of God that must be done. To make it easy for everyone to support Bible translations, we came up with this translation partnership project, which gives opportunity for someone to donate as low as N50.00 monthly to translate a word from the Bible, while N100 monthly will translate two words. N1, 286 on monthly basis will translate a verse of the Bible and N33, 360 annually will translate a chapter of the Bible. For an individual, who feels he has the wherewithal to translate a book of the Bible, N606.000 will do this. The individual who has the financial muscle to single-handedly translate the entire New Testament will donate N16.3m. We may have someone who decides to translate the Old Testament, which will cost N23.6m.
We have made it so simple that even a student can partner with us on monthly basis in the task of translating the Bible. We believe with this arrangement, no Christian should have an excuse to not be a partner in translating the Bible. We have about 500 languages in Nigeria. With all the Bible translation agencies, we do not have more than 30 languages with full Bibles that have been translated. Out this figure, The BSN alone has done 26 full Bibles in Nigerian languages, the latest two being Okrika and Kalabari Bibles, which were dedicated last year in Port Harcourt.
Some of our staff is contributing their salaries to sponsor translation and some of our programmes, as they believe in what we are doing. We expect every Christian similarly to render similar support. Currently, we are working on 11 Bible translation/revision projects, each at a minimum cost of 40m. Therefore, we need the support of every Christian in Nigeria.
Is there plan for translation for the challenged?
Beyond translating for the sighted, we also make the Word of God available to the blind and deaf. For the blind, it is Braille Bible, which costs N44, 000 for a complete set. This we give to them for free. We have started translating into Nigerian Sign Language, stories of the Bible for the deaf. The only country that is about to complete the New Testament in Sign Language is the American Bible Society. In Nigeria, we have only done 110 Chronological Bible stories and we are continuing with more. We already have a Deaf Translation Centre, the first of its kind in the world. It costs three times more to translate the Bible into Sign Language.
What is your goal as the leader? What are the challenges?
Before I became the General Secretary, I did a corporate health analysis of the organisation and had insight into its strength, weaknesses and challenges. One of the glaring challenges was lack of support from churches and another one was having very long number of years to translate the Bible. The fastest time it took BSN to complete a Bible translation project was 38 years. So, when I was coming on board, I had the aim to reduce the number of years of translation, and how to have more Bibles translated within a short time. In 2015, we started Epie and Ogbia translation projects, while in 2016, we started Okun Bible translation. Epie and Ogbia are languages spoken in Bayelsa State, while Okun is spoken in Kogi State, part of Kwara and Ekiti. Our target is to complete these Bibles between five and six years. We are trusting God that by next year, we want the New Testament for Epie, Ogbia and Okun Bibles to be published, which means in less than five years, we would have completed the New Testament, which has never happened in Bible Societies globally.
It is also my dream to have better relationship with churches, such that they will understand what we do. We have been making efforts to attend church conventions to speak and worship at some churches. Unfortunately, we have been meeting brick walls. We also have the challenge of piracy. Our Bibles are being pirated.
How do you see BSN in the next 10 years?
In the next 10 years, I see us distributing a minimum of 7.5 million copies of Bible yearly. Secondly, I want us to have our own Bible Press that can print Bibles in Nigeria, so that we can stop printing Bibles abroad. We want to have more life-impacting programmes that would bring millions of people to Christ among other things. And I see us adding 20 more Bibles in Nigerian Languages to the existing 26.
How can government tackle the issue of piracy?
It starts with making enabling laws. Most of our laws on piracy are outdated and I think that is the reason fighting piracy in Nigeria is difficult. Therefore, lawmakers should make laws that would help in fighting piracy. Secondly, the law enforcement agents should collaborate with copyright holders.
Any message to Church leaders and Christians in supporting BSN?
I appreciate the churches and individuals supporting us. I want also to say we are not getting enough support from churches in Nigeria. If you speak English in your church, you need to remember that the highest literacy in Nigeria is in local languages, as proven by research. More people enjoy and appreciate sermons in their mother tongues. So, if the Bible is only available in English, are we saying those who don’t understand English should not have access to God’s Word? This is the reason we translate the Bible.
Without the Bible, you will not know the mind of God. My advice to Christians is that we should be guided by God’s Word. We should let the Bible dictate how we live our lives, whether we are in politics or business. If we all live by God’s Word, Nigeria will be better place.
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