Hungary’s Education Minister said Wednesday March 20 that preparations have begun to distribute “the worlds first Gypsy Bible” among thousands of Hungarian Gypsies, who are also known as Roma.
“The New Testament will be printed in 10,000 copies by June and the Old Testament will soon follow,” explained Minister Jozsef Palinkas in an exclusive interview with BosNewsLife.”My Education Ministry with the help of the Ministry of National Culture and Heritage, want to give this book to many of the schools and Gypsy organizations, ” said the Minister, who is a Catholic Christian.
Palinkas stressed that Hungary will be the first country to publish the whole Bible in Lovari, the main dialect of the largest Romany (Gypsy) language group. “The problem was always that there were not enough words. Some languages and dialects have only 600 words.” He said the Gypsy Bible will be based on the original Hungarian Catholic version.
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Palinkas explained that it will be a bilingual book with Hungarian expressions side-by-side the Lovari words. “I hope many people of the Gypsy population will take that book and that it will contribute to their Gypsy language,” Pakinkas said. The minister suggested that he did not need much time when asked by translators to support the project.
“The Bible played an important role in the development of the whole European society. If you want to improve the Gypsy literacy the Bible is the book to start with.” He points out that many Gypsies
“belong to the Catholic or Protestant” church. “They are not totally unfamiliar with the Bible, but certainly they did not have it in their own language.
“So (the translation) is beneficial for the Gypsy language and the Gypsy culture.” he said. But there are mixed reactions about the project. The European Roma Rights Center (ERRC) on Wednesday, March 20, welcomed Hungary’s plans to publish what Government officials describe as the worlds first Gypsy Bible.
However the ERRC, an influential human rights organization based in Budapest, also suggested that the Bible project is possible used for political reasons. “This Government is engaging in a lot of PR activity. Part of that is in the run up to the elections (in April) because it hopes to secure Romani votes,” said the ERRC’s Research and Publication Director Claude Cahn in an interview with BosNewsLife.
In addittion “Hungary is a candidate country for European Union membership and has been havily criciticized by the EU for not doing enough for Roma and especially to address the serious discrimination issues in the country,” added Cahn. He said the Gypsy Bible was an effort by the Government to “counter the charge that it is inactive where Roma are concerned.”
Minister Palinkas denied those accusations. “It came a month ago to my attention that this translation is nearly ready. The translation of the Bible in the Gypsy language will nothing change in the elections,” he argued. But Cahn cautioned that several attempts have already been made to publish at least parts of the Bible as “there are a lot of Christian groups among Roma and others especially in the former Soviet Union.”
He noted “a big Pentecostal movement among Roma” in several countries including France, Ukraine and Romania. “The problem with translating the Bible is that Romani has never been fully standardized and there is no authorative set of grammar rules or even vocabulary that is universally accepted by all Roma,” Cahn said. “So at the moment it is quit a decentralized language.”
“Given the geographic dispersal of Roma throughout Europe, the America’s and well into Russia and other countries, there are many different dialects,” he explained. Meanwhile Roma children in the village of Alsoszentmarton in southwestern Hungary seemed pleased with the initiative.
Agnes Jovanovics, a teacher at the local Catholic nursery school told Hungary’s TV2 network that the Gypsy Bible means a lot to the possible 1800,000 Roma people in Hungary. “It is a different case when people can read it in their own mother tongue, hold it in their hands and to see that it is written in our language. I think the fact that it is written in one’s mother tongue raises its value,” she said.