Burkina Faso: In Depth

A Bible they can understand…

Imagine bringing the Bible to a city the size of Edinburgh for the very first time. That is what Biblefresh is setting out to do in Burkina Faso. There are half a million Bissa people, but they don’t live in a big modern city, they are spread out across a wide area in the south of this landlocked West African country. Bissa country has a dry and dusty climate, and life is far from easy for the people who live there. Most of the Bissa are subsistence farmers; tilling their fields during the short wet season just about provides them with enough food to get through the year. They also grow a few cash crops to give them money for life’s basics; clothes, school fees and medicine. It can be a difficult life, but the Bissa are a hard-working people and know how to make the best of their situation.

Bissa country is a religious crossroads. The traditional African religion of the area is giving way to two outside religions; Christianity and Islam. About a quarter of the population is Christian, but if they are to grow and mature as disciples in the complex multi-cultural world they inhabit, they need to get to grips with God’s word.

Elderly Burkinabe man

And this is where we come in. The Bissa people speak two languages; Lebir and Barka. The Bible Society of Burkina Faso has translated the New Testament into Lebir and is now working on the Old Testament. Wycliffe Burkina Faso will soon start work on Barka. The goal of the Biblefresh translation project is to raise the finance needed to get the Bible into the hands of all of the Bissa people.

‘God has made everything beautiful in its time’ (Eccl. 3:11).

The current framework, the readiness of partners to work together, the vision and common purpose, the passion of churches in Burkina Faso and the available human resources confirm that it is today that we must advance!’

Read six testimonies from Burkina Faso.

Facts and Figures

Ten things you didn’t know about Burkina Faso…

  • Burkina Faso is one of the world’s poorest nations. The UN rates it as the world’s third poorest country. Many people live on little more than £1 per day.
  • Not surprisingly, life expectancy is low: 52 years for men, and 54 years for women.
  • Hundreds of thousands of people in Burkina Faso are facing acute food shortages due to bad harvests over several years, followed by flooding in 2010.
  • Traditional religions, Islam and Christianity are all represented. But experts believe that less than 10 per cent of the population is Christian. In some areas this is as low as 3 per cent.
  • Church leaders say that the Bible is vital to church growth. Where the New Testament is available, church numbers have risen by 50 per cent in eight years.
  • Currently many people try to read the Bible in the national language, French. But, as much as 85 per cent of the population do not read French, making the Bible inaccessible to many.
  • In the rural area around Garango, two languages are spoken: Bissa Barka and Bissa Lebir.
  • The 500,000-strong Bissa Lebir speakers now have the New Testament in their own language. This follows a 36-year project that included teaching everyone to read and write, so that they could read the New Testament when it was produced. Locals and church leaders say it has deepened their faith.
  • The 80,000-strong Bissa Barka community has been waiting for the Bible for many years. Churches hold Bible studies without a Bible in their language.
  • You can help locals working with Bible Society and Wycliffe Bible Translators to start work on a translation of the Old Testament in Bissa Lebir and a New Testament in Bissa Barka.

About the Author

For 2011, Biblefresh became a movement of hundreds of churches, agencies, colleges, festivals and denominations to encourage people, particularly within the church, to stop viewing the Bible as a toxic text, and find new ways to engage with passion with the Bible.