Fiji’s Maumi people welcome first New Testament in their language

Fiji’s Maumi people belong to the Waimoro tribe – one of the island’s fiercest warrior tribes, sought after by chiefs of old for their protection and service. Although their original home was Fiji’s picturesque highlands, over time, the Maumi people settled along the palm-lined coast in the district of Bau. There they served the country’s most influential chief, protecting him as warriors.

Although over 3,000 Maumi have their own dialect of Fijian, called Maumi, the dialect of the chief of Bau – Bauan – eventually became the country’s lingua franca, the basis of standard Fijian. And it was the Bauan dialect into which the full Bible was translated more than two centuries ago. No other Fijian dialects had a significant portion of Scripture.

That changed last month, with the launch of the Maumi New Testament. Maumi leaders, Christians, church leaders, and Bible Society in the South Pacific (BSSP) staff and board members gathered at a church in Maumi Village, central Fjii, to celebrate this significant milestone and to look back on the years of work that were invested into the project.

“Reading God’s Word in my heart language reaches deep into my soul,” Mataiasi Kikau, one of the translators, told the gathering.

BSSP project coordinator Ratu Marika Waqanivalu congratulated the Maumi people for their dedication, vision and hard work towards making the New Testament in their language a reality.

It was in 2007 when BSSP General Secretary Solomone Duru, a Maumi speaker himself, created a draft of the first chapter of James in Maumi, using ParaTExt translation software to replace the Bauan words with Maumi words in places where they differed. He gave a copy to both his tribal chief and his spokesman, who were overwhelmed.

“We saw something that neither our eyes nor our imagination ever thought of seeing: Scripture in our own language,” they told him.

Work on the translation began in earnest in 2011, and in 2012, three portions of Scripture in Maumi were launched: the Gospel of Mark, the Book of James, and the story of Abraham in comic book format. Hundreds of Maumi speakers gathered to welcome the first Scriptures in their language. Not only would it enhance their Bible knowledge but it would also help to preserve their language, many of them shared.

“The majority of the Maumians today do not speak in our dialect”, noted a local preschool teacher. “We speak mostly in the Bauan language, but with this initiative, I am sure most of us will want to bring back our language in our everyday conversation.”

After over 2,000 copies of the translated books were distributed among the Maumi, their chief thanked the Bible Society and asked it to continue with the translation work.

“On this day, I not only thank them for the wonderful work, I also plead with them to please finish this good work that you have begun, by translating our Bible in full, with God’s help.”

It was clear that the Maumi people deeply desired more of the Bible in their heart language, so the Bible Society identified and trained more translators to advance the work.

On January 27, 2019, twelve years after Mr Duru first shared his draft translation of a short piece of Scripture in Maumi, the Maumi New Testament was launched. The Bible Society’s project coordinator Ratu Marika Waqanivalu congratulated the Maumi people for their dedication, vision and hard work towards making the New Testament in their language a reality.

As the event closed, the Maumi New Testament was distributed to each head of the clan, who in turn made distributions to their respective clan households, all of whom will now have God’s Word in the language of their heart.

Maumi is spoken by over 3,000 people in Fiji. Please pray that this New Testament will help them to experience meaningful engagement with God’s Word.

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