AFRICA: Child's bibles are good news for continent's youngsters
By John Newton
Children in Eritrea, east Africa, with Aid to the Church in Need's Child's Bible
Aid to the Church in Need is helping to spread the Good News to Africa’s children by publishing its Child’s Bible in even more languages.
A grant of more than £20,000 from the UK national office of the charity will pay for the printing and shipping of Child’s Bibles to Africa – as well as Child’s Bible posters for use by youngsters worldwide.
In 2009, the book’s 30th anniversary, Aid to the Church in Need received requests for more than 1.2 million copies from bishops around the globe.
The charity has recently produced eight new versions of the Child’s Bible – in the Lunda and Luvale languages for Zambia, Konkomba for Ghana, Chindau and Maconde for Mozambique, Luo for Kenya, Boko for Benin and Bari for Sudan.
Bishop Rudolf Deng Majak, President of the Bishops’ Conference of Sudan, wrote: “This book is a great help in our pastoral work.”
The bishop, whose diocese is Wau, in South Sudan, said: “The people – our children – have a veritable thirst for the saving word of God, above all in this time of oppression.”
The Child’s Bible is currently available in 67 different African languages – many of which have few or no other books published. Around 15 million copies have been distributed on the continent.
The Child’s Bible – titled God speaks to his children – is not only used in teaching the Faith and preparing for the sacraments, but also in helping children learn to read.
Bishop Marc Benjamin of Faranfangana, Madagascar, is giving out the Child’s Bible to all the baptised, including adults.
He said: “Through our Bible campaign, as we call it, we at the same time want to reduce the number of illiterates.
“In other words, we are teaching people to read and write and at the same time bringing them the Word of God – and those who have learned to read are given a copy of the little Bible.”
Recently Aid to the Church in Need brought out a poster series, based on the 55 illustrations in the Child’s Bible, which can be used as a visual aid in catechesis.
Father Miguel, who works among the Nivaclé people in Paraguay, described how he used the posters to decorate the parish chapel until the Child’s Bible was printed in the children’s language.
One catechist who used the posters said if children were shown the images they could recite the story that accompanied it.
For many children in these countries the Child’s Bible is the only printed book they have seen.
Teresia Rita Njore, a child from Kenya, said her friends have had their faith deepened by the Child’s Bible. She wrote: “Before I was not interested in reading the Bible – but now I know that God speaks to his children”.
The Child’s Bible was the idea of Aid to the Church in Need founder Father Werenfried van Straaten, who wanted to respond to Pope John Paul II’s wish to “bring the Word of God to the weakest, to the children living in poverty and want in so many countries”.
The original text was written in German by theologian Eleonore Beck, and the illustrations are by Spanish nun Sister Miren Sorne.
Since it was first published in 1979 some 48 million copies have been printed in 162 different languages and distributed in 140 countries around the globe.