Child’s Bible: 45 years of teaching children about God’s love

The Vatican is preparing to hold the first World Children’s Day, 2526 May. Pope Francis, in his message for this occasion, emphasizes the preciousness of every child in God’s eyes.  In 1979, ACN marked the “International Year of the Child” by producing the Child’s Bible to assist the Church’s pastoral outreach. Since then, millions of children have learned to pray in their own language by reading the Child’s Bible, in one of the almost 200 languages it is translated into. Testimonies from all over the world attest to this.

Pope Benedict XVI. distributes the the 10 millionth copy of the Brazilian-Portuguese edition of the ACN Child¥s bible "God speaks to his children"
Pope Benedict XVI. distributes the the 10 millionth copy of the Brazilian-Portuguese edition of the ACN Child¥s bible “God speaks to his children”

Being a faithful Catholic in Cuba can be difficult, and deciding to become a priest is generally the result of a deep and mature faith. Yet when Rolando Montes de Oca entered the seminary, the book he took with him was the “Child’s Bible – God Speaks to His Children”, published by Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).

“I was a child, but will never forget when our parish priest arrived and gave me the Child’s Bible. With this Bible I learned about the Lord, about the story of salvation, and with it I fell in love with God. This God I fell in love with called me to the priesthood, and this is the Bible I took with me to the seminary. Of course, later I had to use other, more complete Bibles, but this continues to be my favourite, because it is the Bible that taught me about Jesus Christ”, the priest told ACN.

Fr Rolando is one of dozens of millions of children who learned about Jesus through ACN’s Child’s Bible. For many children around the world the Child’s Bible is only book they get to own.

Father Rolando Montes de Oca, from Camaguey, Cuba
Father Rolando Montes de Oca, from Camaguey, Cuba

Fr Henrique Uggé, an Italian missionary who works with the Sateré-Mawé people in the Amazon, explained that “we all like to hear, read, and meditate on the Word of God in our own language, in our own cultural and historical context”, adding that the Child’s Bible is also an important cultural tool, since many of the words used in the translations had begun to fall out of use, and are thus preserved for the new generations.

The Child’s Bible was first produced by ACN in 1979 to mark the “International Year of the Child”, when it was submitted to the Third General Bishops’ Conference of Latin America taking place in Puebla, Mexico, to assist the Church’s pastoral outreach. Since then, thanks to the generous donations of ACN benefactors, this Bible has been translated into 194 different languages and dialects, from Assyrian, the closest living language to what Jesus spoke, to Zulu. Considering that in many cases a Bible will be read not only by the child who received it, but also by siblings and other relations, the 51 million copies already printed and distributed since the project began, 45 years ago, represent a much wider audience.

Building confidence and self-respect in the children

In many cases the Child’s Bible is the only written work in a certain language, which makes it especially important in allowing children to relate to their faith in the same language that they speak with their parents and in their communities.

Lilian Omari, from the Missionary Community of St. Paul the Apostle, told ACN about how she uses this resource in her work among the pastoral Turkana people in northern Kenya. “Because it has images, they can see, and are able to peruse the book, touch and feel, and even listen to the Word. This is one of the things that has helped support us to do catechism in the area, since many of the children have not gone to school, and only speak Turkana.”

“We are very grateful to all the benefactors who have supported this project, making it possible to have it translated into different languages”, she added.

Distribution of the Child´s Bible in Saterê-Mawé
Distribution of the Child´s Bible in Saterê-Mawé

In countries where large parts of the population do not speak the official language, such as in southern Mexico, where around half a million people speak Tzeltal as their native tongue, or in the Amazon, where many tribes still live in relative isolation to the outside world, having access to the Word of God in their own language can build confidence and show that  Christianity is not a foreign imposition. Alfred Ajuong Mangui, a catechist in the Diocese of Rumbek, in South Sudan, spoke of how children in his classes grew in this regard. “With the Child’s Bible you will see all the children growing with respect. And with this respect they will develop other skills and a way of life.”

The Child’s Bible is one of ACN’s longest ongoing projects. With 194 languages already in circulation, the foundation continues to work to allow more children to learn about how much God loves them and allow them to love Him in return.

 

By Filipe d’Avillez.
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