There were many concerns and precautions for the Bashkir translation team as they anticipated the official presentation of the completed Bashkir New Testament. How would a people strongly devoted to Islam as well as many traditional stories, customs and practices respond to it? Would the Bashkirs — a Turkic people with more than 1 million native speakers of the Bashkir language — even accept the translated Scriptures? The team members didn’t know what to expect, but they carried on and worked under a heightened level of confidentiality.
The Bashkir translation team and project staff from the Institute for Bible Translation assumed that the presentation would be a small event for a narrow scholarly audience in Ufa, the capital city of Bashkortostan. They expected that the main readers of the book would be Bashkir Christians who were actively helping to read through drafts of the translated Scripture portions, and who were few in number.
But God, it seemed, had other plans. To the translation team’s surprise, the official book presentation hosted by the Academy of Sciences turned into a full-scale conference with 200 people attending. Originally, it was planned to just be a simple round-table discussion! Three Bashkir TV channels reported on the event in the evening news, broadcasting in both Bashkir and Russian. The translation team was amazed and overjoyed at the instant and wide-ranging public response to the Bashkir New Testament.
Very soon afterward, letters of gratitude started pouring in. They were not from Bashkir Christians, nor were they from Bashkir scholars and linguists. They were from average Bashkir Muslims, who received the “Injil,” or Gospel (in this case, a term referring to the New Testament), with a surprisingly full awareness that this is the Good News!
“I was incredibly excited upon hearing on Bashkir TV that you’ve published the Injil in the Bashkir language,” wrote one Bashkir Muslim. “I have no doubt that the Injil in Bashkir will help quench the spiritual thirst of many people and help them to attain true knowledge of the Creator.”
Another wrote, “The desire burns within me to show the Injil to other Bashkirs and explain to them that it is the Book of Life, that it can help everyone develop kind relationships with each other, to find the meaning of life, to create an atmosphere of love in one’s family and to teach children to respect their parents.”
There are over 400 active mosques in Bashkortostan — where the majority of Bashkirs live — and hundreds more are being opened. Ufa has been both the official center and the undisputed heart of religious life for Muslims in the European part of Russia. It’s against this backdrop that the Institute for Bible Translation has been at work for the past two decades translating the New Testament into the Bashkir language.
Despite many hindrances and setbacks, such as the death of the main translator and a full changeover in the translation team, the long-awaited New Testament in Bashkir was published in early 2015. Now, Bashkir Christians are praying that access to the New Testament in their own language will give many mother-tongue speakers the opportunity to discover the riches of the Injil for themselves. Furthermore, they hope it will prompt interreligious dialogue among the Bashkir people.
Unexpectedly, the Bashkir people are celebrating the New Testament. Praise God for surprising this translation team with responses beyond all that they hoped for. Responses like this one: “Yesterday at last I got the Injil!” wrote a Bashkir Muslim. “Thank you and all the translators who worked on the Word of God! I have already started reading, it’s simply wonderful!”
This story is adapted from "The Injil is the Book of Life," which appeared in the Institute for Bible Translation's Summer 2015 Newsletter.
- Praise God for this exciting response to the New Testament!
- Pray for truth to continue to shine on the Bashkir people through the translated Word of God.
- Give thanks for the Bashkir translation team and pray that they may continue to encourage the Bashkir community through Scripture engagement activities. Pray that the Bashkir will apply the Scriptures to their daily lives.
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