A team of Bible translators in Kurdistan, northern Iraq, working against the backdrop of civil unrest and religious persecution, have completed the first ever translation of the whole Bible into the Central Kurdish Sorani language. For the last eight years, Church Mission Society mission partners, Joel and Ruth Hammond*, have been an integral part of the team, working alongside indigenous Kurds and other foreign nationals drafting text, checking names, terminology and style, and finally checking both the Old and New Testaments so they could be published together for the first time as the complete Bible.
The whole translation of Old and New Testaments took 28 years to complete, and will enable six million native speakers of the Sorani language to hear and read the Bible in their own language for the first time. As well as physical copies, the new translation is available digitally, both through the YouVersion app and a newly designed Kurdish app called Pertukekem (‘My Book’).
The new translation, which has been a joint initiative between Church Mission Society, Biblica and several other linguistics services, was launched at a special ceremony on 3 April by Dr Carl Moeller, CEO of Biblica and Maged Rizk, regional manager for North Africa and the Middle East. Dr Nawzad, general director of public libraries in the Kurdistan region, received the translated Bible and welcomed its contribution to Kurdish culture and mutual understanding between the faiths of Kurdistan.
Following the project’s completion, Joel is now training in linguistics and undertaking language studies. Joel said; “It has been a privilege to be a part of this project. Kurds have known healings, dreams and visions from Christ but having the whole Word of God available in written form will crystallise their faith and allow them to pass it on more effectively.” Already, the team have begun to receive feedback from Sorani speakers revelling in the impact the new translation is having. One said he felt “empowered” by being able to use the new version on his mobile phone while another related how he had been able to give the text to a local Mullah.
Paul Thaxter, international director at CMS, recently travelled to the region and was delighted to see the completion of the translation project. He said; “Trying to live as a Christian while being denied the chance to read the Bible in your own language is unimaginable. However, now through the application and commitment of people like Joel and Ruth, and the team around them, millions of people will now have the ‘Gift of Life’ in their own hands.”
*Names changed for security reasons.