Peace on Earth – Summer 2008

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Peace on Earth – Summer 2008

Peace on Earth: Biblical Peacemaking from a Global Perspective
Peacemaker Ministries
 Summer 2008

 

In This Issue:

+  Announcing the release of the Spanish, French and Arabic translations of The Peacemaker!
+  Teaching Peacemaking Cross-Culturally Training


Announcing the release of the Spanish, French and Arabic translations of The Peacemaker!

By Molly Routson, Director of Global Education Partnerships

“¿Cuándo va a llegar el libro Pacificadores?” This is one of the most common questions that I hear these days — “When will the Spanish Peacemaker book be here?” Great news! ¡Ya está! It’s here!

Not only that, but I have the joy of announcing that two other languages of The Peacemaker are now available for sale through our bookstore: the French and the Arabic translations.

In light of this influx of language-related news, I thought it would be appropriate to take a few moments to reflect on how the Bible sees language, as well as the potential that these new resources provide us for impacting the body of Christ around the world.

First, a few statistics

According to the website www.ethnologue.com, there are 6,912 living languages in the world. An interesting fact is that “347 (or approximately 5%) of the world’s languages have at least one million speakers and account for 94% of the world’s population. By contrast, the remaining 95% of languages are spoken by only 6% of the world’s people.”[1]  This fact is noteworthy because the majority of the languages into which The Peacemaker has been translated–including Spanish, Chinese, French, German and Russian, as well as English–are among the most commonly spoken languages in the world. I also found it intriguing to learn that Papua New Guinea has the most linguistic diversity of any country in the world–they have 820 living languages, and if you were to pick two people at random, there is a 99% chance that they would speak different languages. Other linguistically diverse countries include Vanuatu (an island nation in the South Pacific), the Solomon Islands, Tanzania and the Central African Republic.[2]

A biblical overview of language

Where did all these languages come from? Scripture tells us that the origin of linguistic diversity lies in Genesis 11, in the story of the tower of Babel. Many theologians view this account as a continuation of the story of alienation between God and man that began with the fall in Genesis 3.[3] Adam and Eve’s fall shows mankind’s efforts to attain the wisdom and power of God independently from God. Likewise, the descendents of Noah in Genesis 11 conspire to gain access to heaven without God. The Lord responds by confusing up their languages, “so they will not understand each other” (Gen. 11:7). As a result of this confusion, the immense building project was abandoned and the people were scattered throughout the whole earth.

The diversity of the world’s languages is largely ignored or taken for granted throughout the rest of the Old Testament. Because the Old Testament primarily focuses on the nation of Israel, the main characters are unified in culture and language; only briefly does it foreshadow the integration of people who speak other languages into the people of God.

In the New Testament, however, Scripture envisions and begins to see the realization of a Kingdom of God that incorporates people “of every tribe and language and people and nation” (Rev. 5:9). Christ begins to reach out to other people groups (like the Samaritan woman in John 4) and then commissions his disciples in the well-known Great Commission to make disciples of all nations (Matt. 28:19-20). Luke records our Lord’s last words on earth as a command to spread the gospel to Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8), a picture of the ever-widening cultural and linguistic circles that Christianity would impact.

In many ways, we are now experiencing the fulfillment of this vision, although much discipleship still undoubtedly needs to take place, and translation groups like Wycliffe are still working hard to provide God’s Word to language groups that do not yet have Scripture in their own languages. Just last month, I had the privilege (along with Ken Sande and Karl Dortzbach) to experience a small slice of remarkable unity amidst the diversity of languages spoken in a single country; we participated in a conference in South Asia where there are more than 300 languages spoken throughout the country. I rejoiced witnessing the efforts of the conference organizers to recognize and honor the unique linguistic and cultural features of each group that was present, while at the same time celebrating their deeper unity as citizens of one country and–even more importantly–citizens of the one heavenly kingdom.

Dipping back into the Bible, we see an overt expression of the “all nations” aspect of the church in Acts 2, when the Holy Spirit indwells the apostles at Pentecost and they are enabled to speak in the tongues of various people who are visiting Jerusalem. When Peter preaches to this group, he indicates that the apostles’ speaking in tongues is a fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy (specifically, Joel) and is tangible evidence of Christ’s saving power.

And, of course, there is the final fulfillment of the “all nations” promise that we eagerly anticipate–the symphony of voices gathered around the throne, comprised of people from “every tribe, tongue, people and nation,” singing with one voice praise to our Savior. Until that day, we will inevitably have conflict and misunderstandings that arise from our inability to communicate effectively and our different ways of seeing the world, exacerbated by the idolatrous desires of our heart that James describes in James 4:1-3.

In the meantime, however, we at Peacemaker Ministries rejoice that we are able to reach an increasing number of people to communicate to them the reconciling power of the gospel. Below is some specific information about the people who speak the three languages that we are just beginning to carry in our bookstore (don’t forget that The Peacemaker is also available from our bookstore in Chinese, and from the publishers in Russian, Bulgarian and Romanian; please email us at mail@peacemaker.net if you’d like these publishers’ contact information).

Spanish:

Most of us know that Spanish is widely spoken throughout Latin America; in fact, it is the primary language in countries south of the United States (Brazil is the significant exception, where the official language is Portuguese). This doesn’t include the 34 million people in the United States for whom Spanish is their primary language, the country of Spain, or the millions of people around the world who speak Spanish as a second language. According to ethnologue.com, around 372 million people in the world speak Spanish; on other websites, this estimate varies between 322 and 400 million. Philip Jenkins, in his book The Next Christendom, estimates that there will be 623 million Christians in Latin America by the year 2025; if we deduct the 190 million Christians that he estimates will live in Brazil, this will be around 433 million Spanish-speaking Christians in Latin America.[4]

French:

Less known is the predominance of the French language in countries in the Global South, especially in Africa. There are 31 countries in Africa that are considered “francophone” (French-speaking), with a population of around 115 million Africans who speak French as a first or second language. Between English and French, The Peacemaker will be available to a large percentage of Africa’s population in either their first or second language. Jenkins estimates that Africa’s Christian population–which saw staggering growth from 10 million in the year 1900 to 360 million in 2000–will be 595 million strong by the year 2025.[5]

Arabic:

There are approximately 320 million people–predominantly in the Middle East and northern Africa–who speak Arabic as a first or second language. While regional dialects can be different enough that native Arabic speakers from different countries cannot understand each other, they will all be able to read and understand the Arabic Peacemaker. Although the numbers of Christians in these regions are relatively small–less than 10% of the population of the Middle East is overtly Christian–keep in mind that Christianity’s roots lie in this region, where the church has had a continuous presence for nearly two millennia. The gospel has deep roots in the Middle East and Northern Africa and continues to expand, slowly but surely; The Peacemaker will be a key resource in leadership training and helping converts understand how the gospel impacts their daily lives and relationships.

Rejoice with us at the availability of our main resource in these important languages! If you know someone who would benefit from owning The Peacemaker in one of these languages–or if you would yourself–feel free to visit our online bookstore at www.peacemaker.net/bookstore, or give us a call at 800-711-7118 to order your copy today!


[1] Ethnologue, “Statistical Summaries: Summary by language size,” http://www.ethnologue.com/ethno_docs/distribution.asp?by=size (July 2008).

[2] Ethnologue, “Statistical Summaries: Summary by country,” http://www.ethnologue.com/ethno_docs/distribution.asp?by=country (July 23, 2008).

[3] See, for example, M. Turner, “Languages,” The New Dictionary of Biblical Theology (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2000) page 628.

[4] Philip Jenkins, The Next Christendom (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007) pages 3, 104.

[5] Jenkins 3-4.


Speaking of bringing biblical peacemaking to other cultures, check out our Teaching Peacemaking Cross-Culturally training:

Language and culture have a great impact on the way people interact with the world around them. Although Christians from across the world have a great deal in common, we at Peacemaker Ministries continue to grow in our understanding of how to most effectively communicate biblical peacemaking principles to people from other cultures. If you have the opportunity to travel to another culture and teach peacemaking, we’d like to share some of what we’ve learned with you. To this end, we’ve designed a course called Teaching Peacemaking Cross-Culturally and are offering it as part of our pre-conference lineup on September 23-25, 2008. If you’d like to learn more about the course or to read a testimony from a previous participant, visit the course description on our website. We hope to see you there!


Peace on Earth is a quarterly e-publication of Peacemaker Ministries (http://peacemaker.net). All Rights Reserved.

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