BIBLE WORK IN THE SOLOMON ISLANDS
Between 80 to 90 percent of the residents of the Solomon Islands (approx. 515,000 people), belong to the Christian faith, but many do not have Scriptures in their own language and many find it hard to read other languages. The literacy rate ranges between 30-60% in some districts or provinces, with some slight variations on the literacy rate depending on location of the people as well as the infrastructure in place. Research and proven testimonies from various communities have confirmed that the reading of Scriptures in one’s own dialect or language during church worship and gatherings really contributes immensely to people’s understanding of the Scriptures.
Although English and local trade languages provide a measure of mutual intelligibility, they are not fully adequate for many people’s spiritual and worship experiences. The Bible Society supports translations of the New Testament, the Old Testament, and Scripture Comic translation and printing in a variety of indigenous languages, for use both in church and for personal devotional reading.
The need to communicate God’s Word through the various languages/dialects is great although the number of speakers of each language may be relatively small. This is the heart of mission of the Bible Society: to reach every community with God’s Word and it is always effective when helping people read the Scriptures in their mother tongues.
The Bible Society of the South Pacific work in the Solomon Island started way back in the 80’s. The Bible Society staff then Ms. Seinimili Bekanimoli was the Distribution Officer for the West Pacific at the time and visited church headquarters and church leaders connecting the work of the Bible Society with Churches. In September 1992 Murray & Robin Frew and family moved to the Solomon Islands working on “EL Shaddai” a yacht Ministry set up to visiting communities and distributing Bibles. Translations work began way back in the 70’s when Dr. Ray Rickards was the Translation Consultant for the Pacific.
SOLOMON ISLANDS 2008 — Thirty years after gaining their independence, the people of the Solomon Islands celebrated another important landmark: the full Bible in Solomon Is Pijin. The launch of this Bible, the fruit of many years of hard work by translators, translation advisors and translation consultants, was celebrated on July 6 2008 at St Barnabas Cathedral in Honiara. Held on the eve of the 30th anniversary of the independence of the Solomon Islands and representing one of the key events in the government-sponsored Year of the Bible, the launch of the Pijin Bible was attended by prominent political and Church leaders.
The guests included Prime Minister Dr Derek Sikua and Governor General Nathaniel Waena with their wives, members of the Solomon Islands Parliament, premiers of the provinces and government representatives from other Pacific Island countries. The hundreds of people who attended the event witnessed the Pijin translation team, escorted by traditional warriors, bringing the Pijin Bible into the cathedral in a war canoe. The three-hour service, which was also broadcast nationwide at the national government’s cost, was very moving, filled with thanksgiving speeches and songs of praise to God. About 600 Bibles were sold immediately after the service. Reflecting the fact that this project was a joint undertaking of the Bible Society of the South Pacific, the Summer Institute of Linguistics and the Solomon Islands Christian Association, the launch was also attended by representatives of all these organizations.
The Bible Society was represented by BSSP Marketing Manager Donald Mitchell and UBS Translation Consultant Dr Carl Gross, who was also the consultant to the project. The preacher was UBS Translation Consultant Dr Alpheaus Zobule, a Solomon Islander. In honour of the Pijin Bible, the Prime Minister delivered his entire 45-minute speech at the Independence Day celebration the following day in Pijin rather than English. At this event, too, the Pijin translation team brought the new Bible in a war canoe to the representative of the Solomon Islands Christian Association, who then presented it to the Prime Minister.
The Prime Minister symbolically accepted the Bible for the people of the Solomon Islands and it will now be placed on permanent display in the parliament building. Church leaders are also organising launches elsewhere. After the launch in Honiara, Gizo town in Western Province held a week-long programme involving all Churches. At the end of the week, a march took place through the town to the soccer stadium where a launch service was held. At the end of the service, everyone rushed to the stage to buy a copy of the Bible. By making God’s Word easily accessible in such a widely spoken language, the Pijin Bible is set to become a rallying point in a multi-racial and multi-linguistic country that has been divided and torn by years of racial tension and political instability.