Literacy and the Bible: Iranians Deserve More: Medium

By Lana Silk

Every people group, regardless of social standing, education or ethnicity, should have the opportunity to hear the Gospel in their own ‘heart’ language, that they might have the chance to be transformed by the love of Christ.

Yet, with staggering rates of illiteracy throughout the majority of Iran and a controlling government that subjugates ethnic communities and discourages cultural expressions and diversities (effectively assisting the extinction of some of these languages), the people of Iran are left at a disadvantage when it comes to their literacy of God’s Holy Word. This subjugation of ethnic cultures and languages is why many separatist movements in Iran are pushing for separation from Tehran — so that they can preserve their endangered cultural identities.

Iranian Illiteracy and God’s Word

While Farsi, also referred to as Persian, is the official language of Iran, more than half of the population doesn’t speak this language at home or consider it their native tongue. Ethnic minorities living in poverty-stricken, remote areas represent a high percentage of the country’s population. They speak other languages and dialects. Many have to leave education to earn a living even as children, leading to high illiteracy rates, particularly with the primary written language (Farsi) used elsewhere in the nation.

Of the 39 languages most spoken in Iran, only four (Farsi/Persian, Armenian, Assyrian and Azeri) have accurately and successfully translated the Bible — thus, leaving millions of Iranians without first-language translated Bibles (or with deficient translations). This is highly problematic when we consider the fact that God speaks to our hearts the most clearly in our first language, that in which we are most literate. In turn, countless Iranians are left without authentic heart connections to God’s Word.

The government of Iran maintains an agenda to control the people, and the use of language is a key element.

Redeeming Hope for all Iranians

Even so, there is hope. Many ethnic minority Muslims are willing to help translate the Bible into these at-risk languages because they see it as a strategic investment into their own unique culture and want to help us as we — as they see it — work to preserve their native language. We then take these translated scriptures and create audio dramatizations with authentic ethnic music, played on their own ethnic instruments. This is a critical step to reach the most scattered and marginalized and the illiterate populations in these diverse communities. The audio scriptures are broadcast via radio as well as being accessible online.

This is encouraging, not only for the less literate people groups of Iran, but also for those committed to bringing the Word of God to all Iranians. The Bible is powerful — it’s the living, breathing Word of God, sharper than any double-edged sword, able to pierce through the natural divide of soul and Spirit (Hebrews 4:12). Because the Word is so alive, these Muslim translators hearts and minds could become open to receiving Jesus Christ as their Savior. And some are already finding Christ as they translate the Word.

Therefore, there is hope for all — even those in the upper-echelons of Iranian authority — to receive the Gospel, to become forever changed and to transform the nation. God’s love, authority and grace is enough. The key to knowing and receiving this freedom is the truths in His Word.

We all need the hope that is rooted in God’s Word. This is why it is utterly crucial for the Bible to be translated in every tongue. The importance of the Spirit’s connection through native languages is even emphasized in the Word of God when the Holy Spirit filled the people on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:8).

To put this into perspective, one of our church members was incredibly moved when she heard the Bible in her native tongue, Laki. She was already a believer, but she had never heard the Word of God in her first language — the language of her heart. When she finally heard the Gospel of John translated in Laki for the first time, she was moved to tears. Weeping, she repeatedly vocalized, “I have never heard those words in Laki.”

Another young man (16 years old) spoke Arabic-Khuzestani as his native tongue. He had never had access to the Word in his heart language. Instead, he read it in Farsi and Arabic, where his literacy was only just passable. After reading the words of Jesus in his fluent Arabic-Khuzestani he understood the scripture with new clarity, “For the first time, I completely understand the text I am reading. I did not understand Persian texts or other Arabic dialects to this extent.”

The Bible is the tangible Word of God. When we are able to know His voice from His Word — especially when it is in the language we best understand — the depths of our hearts are able to meet the heart of Jesus in such a special, personal way. Knowing His heart is what transforms us from the inside out.

“So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord — who is the Spirit — makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.” 2 Corinthians 3:18

Our Hearts for Iran Matter

We maintain hope that more ministries will make efforts to support the spread of these “heart language” Bible translations for the Iranian people — that all of Iran might know the real Jesus, that their lives would be made new and that they may experience true freedom in God’s Word.

As we pray for Iran during these tumultuous times, let us pray for those translating, that they would deliver the truth of God’s Word, that they themselves would be transformed and that those receiving the Scriptures in their own native tongues would be forever changed.

God’s glory is unlocked from the pages of His Word. Let us then share His Word — this sacred treasure — generously, helping to provide others with the best form of the best resource they could ever receive, supporting ministries with this aim and ability and praying for all the people in the process of this holy literacy movement.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” 2 Corinthians 4:7

Originally posted on: Medium.

Published on
30 March 2023
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