I just returned from an amazing trip to the Middle East. In fact, at the time of writing this, I am still seriously jetlagged! I’ve been telling the staff here in Colorado Springs stories of my time in Israel. But today, I’d like to focus on my time in Iraq.
For starters, I didn’t really go to Iraq. While it said Iraq on my airline ticket, I was actually in Erbil, Kurdistan. As some of you may know, Kurdistan is an autonomous area that covers parts of Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Iran. Yes, Erbil is technically in Iraq. But don’t tell the Kurds that! To them, it’s Kurdistan – a place with its own government, military, and culture.
That is why the event I attended was so important. I was there for the launch of our Sorani Kurdish Bible.
You might be thinking, “So…?”. New Bible translations are always something to thank God for, but we release them pretty regularly, right? We’ve got dedicated teams working on new translations, revisions, and updates all the time, all around the world. So why is this particular Bible so important?
Well, this isn’t just another Bible. This is the first-ever Bible in the Sorani dialect of the Kurdish language. Did you catch that? The first – ever! Never before in history have the Kurdish people had the Bible available in their most-spoken dialect. That is big!
The launch itself was a very emotional experience. Imagine not having God’s Word in your heart language. Then imagine a team spending nearly three decades to provide you with one. That’s how long Biblica translators worked on this project. So to see the fruits of their labors and to see the people from the target language receive those fruits… It was just incredible!
Now imagine 200-plus people gathering in an Islamic country on a rainy evening in April to celebrate a new Bible. Imagine that of those attending the event, some 50 or 60 percent are actually Muslim. And there are representatives from the government, the city, the Jewish community, along with members of the evangelical Christian Church, the Catholic Church, the Assyrian Church, the Chaldean Church, Muslim-background believers…
Never before has there been a Bible launch in an Islamic country where the majority of those attending were Muslim. To have such an overwhelming cultural acceptance of Scripture is powerful!
I can’t tell you how exciting it was to be on the platform at this event. I shared a little about the nature of first things and how the firsts in our lives are so very meaningful to us as individuals. But how much more so are the firsts for an entire people or culture? For the first time, the Kurdish people were able to hold a copy of the Kurdish Sorani Scriptures. That’s amazing! And it took 28 years to get there!
I was especially humbled by the dozen or so translators that were in the audience. Some worked on our translation, some are working on other translations of Kurdish dialects. Sitting across from these people at a later dinner and talking with them at the reception blew my mind. They spent almost three decades on this project – through wars and dislocations and changes in government and changes in personnel, and broken technologies… all kinds of things. But twenty-eight years of love and labor later, there they were, sitting in the audience. I felt humbled to stand there at the platform and acknowledge their great work.
When I was coming home from the airport after my trip, my Uber driver asked where I’d been. I told him Erbil, and he said, “I’m from Sulaymaniya!”. That’s about 125 miles from Erbil. I said, “You’re Kurdish!” and I told him about our Sorani Bible. He was amazed. He had never realized that there was a need for a Bible and was impressed that someone would translate Scripture into the language of the Kurds. “Are there Kurdish Christians?” he asked me. I told him, “Yes, there are. And I was just with some of them.”
It used to be that calling someone a Kurdish Christian was an oxymoron. But not anymore. God is doing some amazing things among the Kurds. I know this Bible will be used mightily to continue and speed that work.
Please keep the Kurdish people and this new translation in your prayers.