By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife
ORLANDO/BUDAPEST (BosNewsLife)-- U.S.-based Bible translation group Wycliffe Associates (WA) is rushing to train and shelter indigenous Bible translators from areas controlled by Islamic militants, after at least four of its workers were killed in the Middle East, BosNewsLife established Sunday, April 17.
WA said a Mobilized Assistance Supporting Translation (MAST) training session will be held in 40 languages for Bible translators "who live in regions where Christians are specifically targeted for persecution and even death."
Besides MAST workshops, the 'Wycliffe Associates Scriptures for New Frontiers Fund' provides shelter, meals and other support as well as "computer tablets with software and other technology and equipment" for translators working in hostile regions, WA explained.
The gatherings in a "secure location" come shortly after WA confirmed that four of its co-workers were killed last month by suspected Islamic militants in an unidentified nation in the Middle East. "Militants killed four national translators and injured several others in a raid on a translation office in the Middle East," said Mae Greenleaf, WA's prayer coordinator.
"They shot and destroyed all the equipment in the office including the Print On Demand equipment," Greenleaf added. "The invaders burned all the books and other translation materials in the office. Two workers died of gunshot wounds; two other workers laid on top of the lead translator—saved his life—and died deflecting bludgeoning blows from the radicals’ spent weapons."
Yet, "We praise the Lord that He protected the computer hard drives containing the translation work for eight language projects. The remaining translation team has decided to re-double their efforts to translate, publish, and print God’s Word for these eight language communities," the official added.
Names and nationalities of victims have not yet been released amid apparent security concerns, but WA said it was in close contact with their families.
In a letter to prayer partners seen by BosNewsLife, Greenleaf urged prayers not only for "the martyrs' families", injured survivors and their relatives, but also for the attackers. "Pray with me for the killers too...for these whose hearts are so hard. Pray the Lord will open their eyes to what they have done. Please ask the Lord to meet them, each one, right where they are. Pray that He will show Himself merciful, that they will know His forgiveness, His love, and His peace."
WA stressed that it had set up an'Emergency 911 Fund' to raise $50,000 to "immediately reestablish this translation project, and to provide support for the families of the national translators who were killed so that a great many others will come to know Him through His Word."
The group made clear that despite these setbacks, programs such as MAST will continue.
“God’s Word will be placed in the hands—and the hearts—of people in multiple nations, nations I can’t name because the risk is so great,” said WA President Bruce Smith. “Our response to the terror and tragedy is to flood the area with God’s Word, in the language of the local people.”
WA said it hopes to facilitate translation projects in at least 500 additional languages this year alone. “It is astonishing to think of our brothers and sisters living in countries where Christians are facing persecution, even death, for translating God’s Word for their people,” Smith said. “And yet they continue.”
WA says it wants to accelerate Bible translation worldwide by empowering national translators and equipping local churches to translate "God's Word into every language by 2025".
Last year, 6,279 WA staff and volunteers worked to speed Bible translations in 75 countries, the group said.