By BosNewsLife Americas Service with reporting by BosNewsLife's Stefan J. Bos
BUDAPEST/WASHINGTON (BosNewsLife)-- U.S.-based Bible translation group Wycliffe Associates says it is concerned about the security of Bible translators in Islamic nations where at least one of its contacts has been jailed for his Christian work.
"The humble imprisoned pastor has been physically removed from the presence of the people he loves—from the people who love him" after he was sentenced to two years imprisonment for "sharing God’s Word with Muslims", said Mae Greenleaf, the Prayer Coordinator with the group.
In a message obtained by BosNewsLife, the official urged Christians to pray for his release. "Do we have the courage to ask God to move in the hearts of those Muslim authorities, who have sentenced this pastor to a two-year prison term, to change that conviction and release him?"
Greenleaf added the pastor had 10 days to appeal. His name and country were not published amid apparent security concerns. Several Islamic nations forbid evangelism or "apostasy", a term used to describe the renunciation of Islam by a person.
However, in a statement to supporters, Greenlead asked to "Pray...that the Holy Spirit will fill the prison with His presence and that Christ will continue to be preached in this land."
Citing Bible verse Philippians 1:18-20 the prayer coordinator said it was crucial to rejoice. "For I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body."
The imprisonment of the pastor is a setback for his church and ministry, Greenleaf added. "He yearns for his people to have God’s Word in their language so their faith will grow," Greenleaf stressed.
"He desires that even the nearby language groups will also have the Bible. We can be confident that he is courageous—because
we know he is a leader in this community."
The jailing comes at a time when Wycliffe Associates plans to accelerates Bible translation around the world. It says it wants to empower national translators and equip local churches to translate "God's Word" into every language by 2025.
"While I’m deeply grateful for God’s faithfulness these 50 years [since the group's foundation], I’m even more excited about the Bible translation plans that He has set in motion for the very near future," said Bruce Smith, Wycliffe Associates president.
His aids say that accelerating Bible translation is crucial as "Christians in many countries today suffer ongoing persecution by members of majority religions." Wycliffe Associates noted that "Jesus followers are often disowned by their families, beaten, and left for dead."
Many, "leave their home areas just to survive," the group said. "And most of the churches in these countries have no Scripture in their languages. How then can believers and persecuted Christians grow strong in their faith when God's Word is unavailable to them in their language?"
Since 2000, Wycliffe Associates expanded services to Bible translators with technology, logistical and operational support,
accelerated translation strategies, and greater financial resources, officials say.
In 2014 it introduced the Mobilized Assistance Supporting Translation, or MAST, to enable the translation of the entire New Testament in months rather than years. Wycliffe Associates has been involved in translating the Bible in hundreds of languages but acknowledged that "worldwide, hundreds of millions of people are still waiting for God’s Word to be written in their heart language."
It has appealed for nearly eight million dollars that it claims is needed to "support Bible Translation in the entire unreached world in 2018."