Words To Build Bridges With
Publishing for unity in Burma
How do you start bridging the deep divisions that issue from decades of civil wars? This is the challenge in Burma.
Ethnically the nation consists of 142 people groups, with 116 different languages. Transition to a new government in 2011 has led to a measure of peace after more than six decades of civil wars between minorities and the military rulers. There have been tenuous improvements in human rights. But the wounds of endemic conflict will take decades to heal.
Christian missionaries were expelled from this majority Buddhist nation in 1966. Yet the church has continued to grow ever since. Today there are well over 3 million Christians! Sadly the church is also very divided: with more than 90 denominations, often separated along ethnic lines.
Paul Windsor (Langham Preaching) recently visited the region and said:
‘While Myanmar is on some sort of road towards democracy, there is something particularly evil about a regime that crushes the human spirit for as long as this one. It has been almost as long as the biblical exile, with the similar consequence of giving the people no living memory of any other reality. It creates a different brand of injustice which requires a different brand of restoration than what might be found elsewhere.’
And Christian publishers wondered: Is there a task for us?
Some years ago, the Association of Theological Education in Myanmar (ATEM) identified a common theological language as one strategic goal. Having a shared understanding of the key concepts of the Christian faith among the various denominations and ethnic groups is essential for dialogue.
The Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms by Derek McKim was found to be the most helpful existing resource. Definitions cover a range of theological disciplines, such as biblical studies, church history, ethics, ministry and philosophy.
Next, with the support of Langham Literature, ATEM undertook the mammoth task of ‘translating’ each of the 6,000 entries into the official majority Burmese language. This meant re-working the expressions and finding terminology that will make sense to believers across the complex, multi-ethnic church in Burma today.
The task was completed towards the end of 2013. And more than 50 seminaries have already started using this dictionary as a resource for their Bible students – the next generation of Bible teachers, preachers, evangelists and leaders of the church in Burma.
Give thanks to God! Pray that through the Holy Spirit this work will build bridges: to facilitate communication and unity between the ethnically and denominationally divided believers in Burma.
by Colin Macpherson for Langham Literature