Bible Translation Movement Eyes Scripture Access for All Deaf Sign Languages by 2033

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A newly launched movement to make the Bible available in every language in the next 12 years is also aiming to reach 70 million Deaf people who use visual sign language to communicate.

illumiNations, an alliance of the world’s leading Bible translation organizations, has launched the “I Want to Know” campaign, with the goal of giving everyone on earth access to the Bible in their own language by 2033.

For 70 million Deaf people globally, sign language is the first or only language they know and use every day. More than 350 unique sign languages for the Deaf are among the 3,800 languages that don’t yet have a complete Bible translation.

“Many people in America and elsewhere wrongly assume there’s just one universal sign language for the Deaf,” said Chantel Pagan, CEO of Deaf Bible Society, a Texas-based organization that’s part of the illumiNations movement. “They’re shocked when they learn there are actually hundreds of different sign languages, representing many Deaf cultures around the world.”

‘Translation Acceleration’ for the Deaf
With translation accelerated by the illumiNations campaign, Deaf Bible Society is embarking on its most ambitious project ever — making the Bible available to the 98 percent of Deaf people worldwide who’ve never been introduced to the gospel.

“There are more than 25 sign languages that have some Bible chapters or verses, but over 58 million Deaf people have no access at all to the Scriptures,” Pagan said. “It’s not just the Deaf in poorer countries, but Deaf communities in many developed countries also lack the Bible in their own sign language.”

Only one sign language — American Sign Language — has the entire Bible.

“These are true languages, not mere gestures,” Pagan said. “They’re rich in syntax and grammar. Every sign language is different, so subtle movements — such as leaning forward or raising your eyebrows — have different meanings.”

Advances in technology are helping to supercharge Bible translation efforts globally.

“With video, smartphone apps and the internet, we can create and provide sign language resources like never before,” Pagan said. “We invite everyone to join this movement, so that the Deaf can receive and experience the hope of the gospel.”

‘Largest Ever’ Digital Bible Campaign
Participants in the “I Want to Know” campaign — the largest-ever Bible campaign on social and digital media — can sponsor one translated verse of Scripture for $35. People can also post the verse they “want the world to know” on social media using the hashtag #IWTKBible.

The illumiNations alliance wants all people to have access to Scripture by the year 2033 — a target it’s calling the “All Access Goals.” It means 95 percent of the world’s population will have access to a full Bible, 99.96 percent will have access to a New Testament, and 100 percent will have access to at least some Scripture.

People can learn more about the campaign at illuminations.bible/know and follow illumiNations on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.

-CNJ Staff Reports

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