By Gladys Guienguéré, Head of Communication at the Bible Society of Burkina Faso
“God speaks to us in our mother tongue! May each one of you get a copy of this Bible, read it with your family, in small groups, at church, and everywhere you find yourself. Become true lovers of the Bible!”
This is how Mgr Pierre Claver Yenpaabu Malgo, Catholic Bishop of the Diocese of Fada N’Gourma – the capital city of Gourma Province, Burkina Faso – welcomed the Catholic edition of the Gulmancema Bible, U Tienu Maama Tili. The launch took place on September 22 in St Joseph’s Cathedral, where people from the diocese’s 14 different parishes gathered with great joy to give thanks for the Bible in their language.
The Gulmancema Bible was first published in 2005. This new edition is a partial revision of that Bible and includes the Deuterocanon, providing Catholic Gulmancema-speaking Christians with their full Bible for the first time. The vast majority of Burkina Faso’s Christians are Catholic.
Sister Marie Lompo, of the Fada N’Gourma Diocese said that she “cried tears of joy” at the dedication ceremony.
“God thought about the Gurma people! I was overwhelmed with joy when I considered his love for us, “ she smiled. “His gift of the Bible to us will help many people get closer to him.”
One of the highlights of the dedication ceremony was ‘the procession of the Word’, when the new Bible was carried around among the people for around 15 minutes, before being handed over to Mgr Malgo as a symbol of its arrival in the community. This was then followed by an incense ceremony and the placing of the Bible on a throne to represent the royalty of the Son of God, and the Word of the living God dwelling among his people.
Mgr Malgo thanked the Bible Society of Burkina Faso and United Bible Societies for bringing the project to translate the Gulmancema Bible to full fruition.
Bible Society General Secretary Pastor Dramane Yankiné thanked the two bishops Mgr Malgo and Mgr Paul Ouedraogo for their involvement in the project, which helped to ensure its completion. He also congratulated the three Bible translators – Pastor Abraham Tankoano, Grégoire Naba and the late Father Dieudonné Tankoano – the revision committee and the translation consultants, Anne Kompaoré et Samy Tioyé.
“They worked selflessly to give the Catholic Church the first Bible in Gulmancema,” he said.
Mgr Malgo paid special tribute to the memory of Fr Tankoano, who died in 2014 without seeing the culmination of his work to revise the Bible.
“You have accomplished the work that was entrusted to you. You nurtured the dream of holding this Bible in your hands, of leafing through it and reading the Word of God in your mother tongue. We are grateful to for a job well done. May you rest in peace!”
Gulmancema is spoken by more than one million Gurma people, who live in Burkina Faso’s Gourma Province, as well as in Togo, Benin and Niger. Although it is not recognised as one of the country’s official or regional languages, the Gurma people feel very strongly about their mother tongue. However, literacy rates in Gulmancema are low – around 14% altogether, rising to 54% in urban areas – and a number of initiatives are currently underway to help the Gurma people learn to read and write in their own language.
“There is not a lot of post-literacy reading material in Gulmancema for students,” said one of the Bible translators, Pastor Tankoano. “This new Bible will therefore also be a precious tool for those who want to practise their reading skills!”
“It is easier to read this Bible than the French Bible because it’s in my own language,” said M. Namoano from the Cathedral Parish. “I have bought myself a copy and can’t wait to start reading it!”
Mrs Kouldiati , who attended the launch bought two copies – one for herself and another for her sister.
“Thank you to the Bible Society and to all who worked so that today we have the jewel that is this Bible!” she said.