Burning Bibles!

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Yei Town: Bibles burned in some schools!

Introduction

This morning, Thursday 18th June 2015, I was at the Across Office in Yei. There was morning devotion as usual before the work day starts. During the devotion, most members were speaking about the burning of some New Testament Bibles (New Living Translation). These bibles were brought to Yei by the Ministry of Education of South Sudan. The bibles have some pictures on the covers (See picture above). The colors were not black as the normal bibles are.

The story

It was made clear to me by one of the members of the meeting later on, that the head-teacher for Emmanuel Model Primary and Secondary schools ordered all these bibles to be burned, because they are evil. Pastor, Francis Taban, a pastor of Emmanuel Cathedral who is also the head-teacher for Emmanuel Model, one of the most trusted schools in Yei, was said to be moving from door to door, looking for those little bibles that he believes are evil.

One reason the pastor and others believed that the bibles were evil is because of the words found in them. Those words seem to be not familiar with the readers. Some of those words are: “the message of the cross is foolishness” (1 Corinthians 1:18).

Many un-confirmed things were believed to have happened to children using these bibles. It was reported that some kids disappeared after reading these bibles, and many other mysterious stories developed since 15th June, 2015. The bibles were brought to Yei from Juba, around 10th June, 2015 according to the people I have interviewed.

These bibles were distributed to many schools in Yei Town as they meant to help the kids learn the basics of Christian teachings, since South Sudan is a Christian country as it is assumed by many people internationally. The talks about the bibles were almost the only thing for our morning devotion at Across meeting hall this morning.

After the meeting and prayers, I then asked one of the members to give me the only copy of those bibles that he was carrying. That copy was given to one of the members as he was coming to Across compound. The member said a young boy was carrying this bible as the boy was crying. The member asked the boy why he was crying, and the boy told him that, his mother beat him because of this bible he was carrying. The boy asked the member if he can take a way that evil thing from him and the member agreed to do so.

I got the little bible and I read the verses known to be talking something evil about Jesus. The verse is 1 Corinthians 1:18, where Paul was comparing the different views of different groups of people about Jesus Christ and his death on the cross. According to Paul, the cross is foolishness to those who perish, but the power of God for those who have been saved (believers).

The author’s view

According to me, there are many things we can learn about this as theologians in South Sudan. I ask many questions about this. To me, it is serious. But, what can I learn from this as a theologian?

A need for a Theological Education – it is clear that many people, even pastors in South Sudan are not familiar with the word of God. This is our work as theologians to train others especially those who are teaching others. Theological education will expose our pastors, teachers and pupils to the word of God. A trained pastor would have known that there are many different versions of the Bible today!

The Bible is not always having a black cover. This also reminded me of some comments by the former Yei Education Inspector when he visited us in Goli, back in 2013. The inspector warned the school (Emmanuel Christian Academic) not to indoctrinate the children with their Christian doctrines!

Conclusion

To me, it was a surprising event to hear such as thing in Yei, South Sudan. I thought we (South Sudanese) know that there are many different Bible translations, but I was wrong! We must do something soon or else we may end up burning every Bible that is not clear to us. I have no idea whether this news reached those who brought the bibles and the donors. I believe someone donated these bibles for South Sudanese schools even though I have no evidence for now.

I have no idea about what other schools are doing with the same bibles in Yei, apart from the Emmanuel Model. I have no idea what other schools are doing in the whole Central Equatorial State, or other regions where these bibles might have been distributed as well. I hope people will come to the normal senses as soon as possible.

The reaction of many people I have interviewed is that, the bibles are really evil even though they lack evidences of what is exactly evil in them. I am just worried of the misleading information, created by this misunderstanding, caused by us, the teachers and pastors who are supposed to correct the misunderstanding. I have no idea what I can do personally to stop this.

My message to my readers in Yei Town, and South Sudan at large is that, those bibles are normal bibles even though their covers are not black. They are as accurate as any other New Living Translation of the Bible that you might have known. I use this version of the Bible most of the time in Goli, at Emmanuel Christian College (www.eccollegess.org), because it is very clear and understandable, compared to the NIV and other Bible versions. Please help us correct this misunderstanding by telling people near you, that these bibles are good.

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John