In the early 1960s, the publication of the very first Runyankore-Rukiga Bible provided the Nkore and Kiga peoples of south-western Uganda with access to God’s Word in their mother tongue. More than 50 years on, the Bible Society of Uganda celebrated a new version of the same Bible, but one with a difference. Standing two metres tall and weighing over 30kg, the Runyankore-Rukiga Braille Bible has brought the Word of God to people with visual disabilities.
In a country with a population of around 42 million, it is estimated that 2.6 million are visually impaired or blind—one of the world’s highest rates of visual impairment. The Bible Society of Uganda, recognising this need, has implemented a wide range of innovative ideas to reach this audience.
Starting in 2011, the Bible Society has done considerable work in helping blind people learn to read Braille, advocating for inclusivity in church activities, and providing Scripture materials in Braille, audio, and large-print formats.
Following on from the launch of the Luganda Braille Bible in 2018, the new Runyankore-Rukiga Braille Bible is yet another important milestone in ensuring that people with visual disabilities can access and engage with Scripture.
The launch celebration took place in November 2020 in Mbarara, western Uganda. With face masks worn by all attendees, it was obvious that COVID-19 has impacted daily life in the country, but that could not prevent the expression of great joy and thankfulness amongst the 180 people in attendance.
“God hears my language,” exclaimed one of the beneficiaries, with another remarking that, “it is now the Bible that comforts me.” The event was also streamed online for those who, due to COVID-19 restrictions, were unable to attend in person.
The Rt Rev Nathan Ahimbisibwe, Bishop of South Ankole, was one of a number of guest speakers at the celebration.
“This is what we need in the world,” he explained, “everyone able to access God’s Word.”
It costs over 2,400,000 Ugandan Shillings (approximately $640 USD) to produce a copy of the new Runyankore-Rukiga Braille Bible, but the Bible Society is ensuring that this will not prevent people from being able to access it.
“Our work as a Bible Society is to make sure that we give out this Bible for free,” explained Emma Mwesigye, Chair of the Society’s Ankole Branch. The task of distributing the new Braille publication to churches, communities, and individuals continues at pace.
The Bible Society in Uganda has found that provision of Braille Bibles can lead to lasting change, raising the self-esteem of blind and visually impaired people, their inclusion in Church and community activities, and the sharing of God’s Word in the community.
Benon Christopher, a Braille Bible beneficiary, explains: “The work of the Bible Society of Uganda is so great. They are the only single organisation that has been able to gather blind people together in spiritual matters.”
The Bible Society of Uganda, with the launch of the Runyankore-Rukiga Braille Bible, continues to build on the years of positive project work, ensuring that people with visual disabilities have the fullest opportunity to engage with and become mature in the knowledge of God’s Word.
Source: United Bible Societies