Language: Romani Baltic (ISO code: rml)
Speakers: about 300,000 Roma in Eastern Europe
Edition: whole Bible, delivered in December 2014
Partner mission: Distribution of Christian Literature
Reference: Ethnologue data | Langscape map
The Bible in a new language
Do you know a nation of over 10 million people living in Europe and which does not have the Bible in their own language?
No, it is not Danish or even Icelandic but the Roma! They are a people of mysterious origin who often made the headlines in our country, but a people that is widely misunderstood and often despised.
Although we have no statistics on this well-established and dispersed population this is still partly nomadic, we know that much of them claim to believe in the God of the Bible. So how is it that the Bible is still not translated? There certainly are many reasons for this but the main one is undoubtedly the great disparity of Romani dialects that is linked to a strong geographic dispersion. According to linguists, these dialects can be categorized into 10 groups, each of which borrows words from the surrounding languages.
Of these 10 groups, only 5 have the New Testament and since December 2014, it is the 300,000 Roma North of the former Soviet bloc (Belarus, Russia, Poland, Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia, Moldova, etc.) that have the entire Bible in Baltic Romani, the language of their heart and their identity.
The history of this translation is rather unusual since it is not the initiative of foreign missionaries. Originally, it was Valdemar Kalinin, a man born in 1946 in Belarus of a Belarusian mother and a Rom father. He converted in 1989 following the simple testimony of a Roma couple. Since then, he openly shows his faith in Christ and as he is a professor of letters, very quickly, he had the desire to translate the Bible into Baltic Romani. Two years later, after several warnings about his faith being too visible, he lost his job. He worked as a freelance translator until 1995 when he received a job offer and moved to London. There he will form in the ancient languages, Bible translation and meet specialists who will assist and advise in this great translation task.
In 2001, 1,200 copies of the New Testament with Psalms and Proverbs were published with the help of a German mission. This edition met a great, but short lived success. Subsequently, Valdemar finalized the translation of the Old Testament and the New Testament revision taking into account the variations of dialects and feedback he received from readers.
During this period, he met Matthias Roggli, a Swiss pastor based in London who will supported and encourageed him with multiple proofreading and corrections that will, in the image of childbirth pain, “give birth” to a faithful, fluid and, understandable text.
Once the text is complete and polished we still need a publisher and a printer experienced in publishing Bibles. Thus, via several intermediaries, MiDi Bible was contacted and was able to take over the editing process and half the funding thereof which totaled approximately CHF 45,000.
Still evidence that the author of this love letter is at work so it reaches its destination; it is that we know a printer very well in Belarus, which has greatly facilitated the delivery which would otherwise have been very expensive (30% more) and complex. Moreover, the head of a federation of churches is firmly established in Belarus and neighboring countries offered to take care of the free storage and distribution of these Bibles.
This story beautifully demonstrates the love of God who is interested in the most despised people in the world and mobilizes all qualified persons and all the necessary resources to bring them His Word in the language that can touch their heart.
Text written in June 2015