For over a hundred years, the Bible has been translated into Malagasy official language, and many of the people had the opportunity to avail themselves of the Word. A long-time though it may be, many areas in the island do not have this privilege, many tribes and people group do not have the Bible in their own language, many of those from the deep countrysides, bushes and rainforests have the plight of not understanding the language into which the Bible has been translated, or simply have no access to it. For this very reason, Madagascar Mission found it crucial to find a way to reach those people and had fixed the vision to spread the Bible throughout and for whole Madagascar, which includes all the eighteen tribes and dialects, eighteen languages in whole.
Man plans, God provides. Indeed, He provided for all that was needed for this project, including people and partners; the Wycliffe Associates collaborated joyfully with Madagascar Mission through the M.A.S.T Project in order to open the line for this translation.
for this to happen, we had go through some steps so that we might be able to proceed with the intended goal. The first and pivotal step was the translation of the Gateway Language, the Plateau Malagasy, through which the dialects can be translated later on.
The translation was from English open Bible translation to Plateau Malagasy, following many steps and levels. About 25 young translators actively contributed in bringing their part for the work of God. After a two-year tremendous work, the translation of the source text, the notes, vocabularies and questions concerning the Bible was finally achieved at the end of September 2019 thanks to those young devoted people who committed themselves in prayer, hard work and joy.
TRANSLATING THE OFFICIAL LANGUAGE INTO DIALECTS
Forasmuch as the official language translation is finally through, we can now proceed to the next step: The Other Language Translation. This consist of translating the official language into dialects. Those are the languages that many people seem to underrate despite that they are as important as any other as well as being so numerous.
Many people ask themselves of the whys of this action. This is crucial, we can wait no more, this is an urgency that the people in the bushes and unreached areas know the Word now. In fact, Christian adherents in Madagascar are about 49,7% and the evangelical is 6,10%. Seeing these statistics from the Joshua Project, how can we watch the 50,3% of the Malagasy people being ignorant and unsaved, devoid of the knowledge of the Way, with folded arms? This Bible translation is the answer, and we have been mandated to complete it. Through this terrific service, many souls will be saved, and this is not only for this present generation but also for the future.
Hence, for a beginning, sixty people from six tribes, including the Betsimisaraka North, Betsimisaraka South, Tanala, Tsimihety, Sihanaka and Antambahoaka have come from a long way to initiate the service. Some have made a two-day travel, riding on roads in really bad states, waking up before dawn so as not to miss the train and then take the car to finally arrive in Antananarivo where the workshop took place. Some had come from the bushes and rainforests and walked kilometres to reach the bus station, leaving behind their work and families to accomplish the calling.
THE TWELVE TRIBES IN QUESTION
Betsimisaraka The Betsimisaraka, which literally means “The many inseparable.” This is the second-largest ethnic group in Madagascar and cover 15% of the population. Their territory is located in the Eastern coastal region, from Tamatave to Antalaha. The Betsimisaraka is divided into two sub-groups: The Betsimisaraka North and the Betsimisaraka South.
The population of the Betsimisaraka North is about 1,562,000 and their main language is the Northern Betsimisaraka.
Around 35,00% of them are Christian, and of all these 35%, only 1, 21% are evangelical.
As for the Betsimisaraka South, the population is around 3,033,000 inhabitants, and they speak the Southern Betsimisaraka.
Like the northern, the largest religion is Ethnical and 45,00% are Christian, while only 6,65% are evangelical.
The Antambahoaka, “A lot of people” if translated, is the smallest tribe in Madagascar, it covers only 0,4% of the population. They live in the south, particularly in Mananjary on the southeast coast of the Great Island.
It is important to note that they also hold on to ethnic religion, so about 20,00% of the Antambahoaka are Christian and among those Christians, 4,00% are evangelical.
Besides that, the Sihanaka, found in the Lake Alaotra Ambatondrazaka in the Central North-eastern Part of Madagascar were also there. Their name means “People of the Swamps” in reference to the marshlands around Lake Alaotra that they inhabit.
There are about 671,000 inhabitants and the largest religion is ethnic religion. 30,00% of these people are Christian and 1,94 % are evangelical.
The other one is the Tanala, who can be found near Manakara in the south. This name means “People of the forest,” and they cover 04% of the population on the island, that is about 1,350,000 inhabitants.
The largest religion is mainly the ethnical, while 22,00% are Christian and 1,04 % of it is evangelical.
The next is the tribe of the Tsimihety, meaning “those who never cut their hair” and their territory is situated in the north-central region, it is one of the largest ethnic group, precisely the fourth largest ethnicity.
The population is about 2,149,000 and they speak obviously Tsimihety. 25% are Christian and 1,93 % are evangelical.
The Antakarana, “The people of the rock,” who are found in the far northern part of Madagascar, mainly in Ambanja and Ambilobe districts also offered their involvement. This people practice tromba (ancestral spirit possession), and adhere to a wide range of ancestral taboos, particularly including many that serve to protect wildlife and wilderness areas.
Their population is around 192,000 and only 0,74% are evangelical, implying that a whole lot of work is still to be done in this area.
This people group is located in the arid extreme south of Madagascar, particularly in Androy, Ambovombe and Bekily districts. Their name means “where there are thorns,” and Antandroy is derived from the name of a particular mimosa with long thorns called “Roy.”
The population is about 1,188,000 and the main language is Tandroy. Of these millions of people, the largest religion is ethnic religion which implies different beliefs and rituals, while only 1,97% are evangelical.
They are culture-keepers and preserver, and they value their custom a lot, they have an ounce of strong character that is a pillar to their success in what they are doing. These characters were seen through the way they led their group during the workshop.
Antefasy, situated in Southeast coast of Madagascar, mainly in Farafangana. The name of this group is derived from the term “Fasika,” which means sand, so Antefasy literally means “those who live in the sand.” This group is characterised by their ferventness in accomplishing things, we could see this through their hard work as well as their innovation and passion in doing the translation.
The population is about 2,210,000 and 2% of them are evangelical and the largest religion is the ethnic one; that is why they themselves were giving their best for their tribe.
The Antemoro or the “People of the coast,” contributed as well in this. This particular group extend along the Southeastern part of the Island, around Manakara. They speak Antemoro and are renowned for the Antaimoro Paper.
The population is about 1,153,000 and the evangelical people are 2,34%.
This second group is found along the remote coast of Madagascar, along the southeast in the district of Vangaindrano, in the province of Fianarantsoa.
They contribute about 5,3% of the population of the Island, which is about 1,710,000. They mainly speak Malagasy, Tesaka. Antesaka, also known as Antaisaka means literally “Those who descended from the Sakalava,” precisely the western Sakalava. As the story tells, a Sakalava prince settled in their territory in the 17th centuries and thus, brought about the birth of the Atesaka tribes. Speaking about religion, only 2,32% are evangelical, which gives the obvious conclusion that the ethnic religion is the most practised, such as the folk beliefs and ancestor worship.
The Sakalava also got actively engaged in this. In fact, this tribe contribute about 2,185,000 of Malagasy people; their territory extends from the southwest of Madagascar to the Isle of Nosy Be in the North and the west coast of Madagascar between Mahajanga and Toliara.
The population is around 1,849,000, while 1,80% are evangelical and the remaining follow the largest religion which is the ethnic and folk beliefs. This name means “people living in the gorge” or “the people of the saka” as one of the translator put in, which is in connection with the people hiding a long time in the caves during persecutions royal times. The evangelical people are around 2% while the remaining mostly follow ethnical beliefs.
AN IMPOSING PERFORMANCE
We started with the book of Mark, James, Galatians, Romans, plus 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, and Colossians. The translators were performing very well, as a matter of fact, the expected speed was about 25 verses a day for each person, this includes all the steps to follow from consuming to back translation; but they managed to go over the average.
The use of the materials is practical and each group were putting all their zeal and effort to get it done. In this way, they could bring the books that they translated home, after they were printed.
A PRAISEWORTHY WORK Other book translations are yet to come, but their striving and enthusiasm during this first workshop deserve a whole lot of appreciation. Thus, so as to value and acknowledge the translators’ active involvement in doing the holy service of God, a certificate giving session was held before their departure on the 25th of October.
PRAISE AND PRAYER ITEMS Only God is to be praised for all the work that has been achieved. We are grateful to the Lord that that these books are now translated in languages that these six tribes understand. We are also thankful to the leaders who had mobilised the 58 translators, and all of them who ardently did their best in doing their part in bringing the Word to the unreached. This completion would not have been if there were no people who intensely prayed day and night for this project, so we are grateful to all of those who made their involvement.
However, we are not even halfway through, the mission is far from being accomplished. By January 2020, we have to organise the next workshop, and more languages are still to be translated. “The harvest is plentiful but the labourers are few,” so let us ask the Lord of harvest to give us people for his service. Let us remember in prayer all the translators and their people so that their work might be fruitful to the glory of God.