We are grateful for the generosity of so many who helped make this project a reality. In partnership with Ethiopian believers, 360,000 Bibles and New Testaments in the Oromo language were printed and distributed from 2012-2017. At the end of 2017, we had a final goal of raising funds to bring that total to 500,000 copies--and we are happy to report we exceeded our goal! When this final phase is complete, we will post an update of the final numbers and, more importantly, testimonies and pictures of the impact this project has had for the church in Ethiopia. While we are no longer collecting funds for this project, join us in praying that these copies of the Scriptures in the Oromo language will be used to spread the Gospel in Ethiopia and beyond.
The continent of Africa includes around 1000 distinct languages. Of those, Oromo is one of the five most widely spoken, and some argue it is surpassed only by Arabic and Hausa. Oromo is the mother tongue for more than 30 million people. There was no such thing as written Oromo until the 1880s, and, like so many languages, the impetus for developing a written text was the desire to translate the Bible. Because the ruling families of Ethiopia were mostly of Amharic origin, they opposed teaching and publishing in the Oromo language. The goal was for Amharic to become standard throughout the Abyssinian empire, thus uniting the peoples around a common language and culture. This insistence on Amharic continued through the reign of Haile Selassie.
Nevertheless, the Oromo people continued to adhere to their own language and customs. In 1991, over 1000 Oromo intellectuals met and agreed Oromo would be written in a modified Latin alphabet called Qubee.
The original translation of the Oromo Bible was completed by a freed slave named Hika (1856-1931), a native Oromo man converted under the ministry of Lutheran missionaries. Upon conversion, he adopted the name Onesimus Nesib, after the fugitive slave that Paul led to Christ as recorded in the book of Philemon.
Like Wycliffe, Tyndale and Luther before him, Onesimus was persecuted for his Gospel ministry and for putting the Bible in the language of his people. However, the Oromo Bible was completed in 1899, and in 1991 the translation was improved and updated.
The Oromo people are the largest people group in Ethiopia. In the past two decades, there has been rapid advance of the Gospel with thousands of churches starting, growing, and reaching out. Despite persecution and few resources, Good News travels fast! However, in order to strengthen and ground these Christians and to fuel the continued growth of the church, Oromo believers need Oromo Bibles.
There is an Oromo Bible, and there is a high literacy rate among the Oromo people—the problem is supply. Only about 2% of Oromo believers have the Scripture in their own language. Frontline Missions International is joining with key partners, the Bible League of Canada, the Ethiopian Bible Society, and a network of pastors in Ethiopia, to publish and place thousands of copies of God’s Word in the heart language of the Oromo people.