Translation project completes Scripture for Qom

Argentine ethnic group reclaims cultural identity in a Christian context

Mar 2, 2015 by and

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In Fortín Lavalle, Argentina, 200 people celebrated the arrival of the first complete Bibles in the Qom language Dec. 13.

Church members in Fortín Lavalle, Argentina, celebrate the arrival of Bibles in the Qom language Dec. 13. — Argentine Bible Society

Church members in Fortín Lavalle, Argentina, celebrate the arrival of Bibles in the Qom language Dec. 13. — Argentine Bible Society

Qom is the original name of the Chaco’s Toba indigenous people — a name they are reclaiming.

The celebration marked the completion of a project begun in 2000. It completed the parts of the Old Testament not previously translated, and retranslated the New Testament to reflect current language.

Many groups — including the Mennonite team in the Chaco, indigenous churches and believers and the Argentine Bible Society — collaborated on the project.

Mennonite team members Luis Acosta and Richard Friesen coordinated indigenous translation teams.

Songs, dance and prayer accompanied a procession of the Bibles from the entrance of the church property to the place of worship, underneath the shade of a grove of trees.

Orlando Sánchez, one of the translators, said: “Today we are recovering our religion, our worldview,” according to an article on the Argentine Bible Society website.

Juan Victorica, a Qom leader who led the Dec. 13 event, said that in the past people told the Qom that “being a Christian was making yourself like the people of European descent and leaving behind the Qom,” reported the Argentine Bible Society.

This included leaving behind the Qom language. Since then, the Qom have reclaimed their cultural identity in Christian expression.

“God is a Qom God,” Victorica said.

In a 2012 article, Rafael Mansilla, a Qom community leader, pastor and translator, said that although the Qom people have read the Bible in Spanish and portions in their own language for many years, the new translation would bring greater insights for native Qom speakers, finally able to read all of Scripture in their “heart language.”

Translating ‘Jesus’ film

Alfonsina and José Oyanguren, sent by Bragado Mennonite Church in Argentina and serving as international partnership associates with Mennonite Mission Network, helped coordinate another translation effort recently with the Evangelical Linguistic Missionary Association.

The project is the Jesus film, a movie about Jesus’ life according to the Gospel of Luke.

A cast of 26 Qom voice actors read the parts in a recording studio set up in the Oyangurens’ house.

“Each reader had only seconds to dub their voices to the movement of the actors,” wrote the Oyangurens in a letter.

They said the Qom language is a slow language, and the meaning changes if spoken quickly. So it was difficult to coordinate the spoken recording with the on-screen actions. They had to reduce the number of words in some of the actors’ lines without losing the meaning.

The five-hour dubbed movie should be ready this year. A CD of the audio will also be made.

“We would like to use the movie for biblical reflections in educational institutions, churches and homes,” the Oyangurens said.


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