In Armenia, the day before an election is called ‘the day of silence’ because political parties are no longer allowed to campaign. This year’s ‘day of silence’ took place on April 1. The same day the Armenia’s Deaf community celebrated the launch of the first Scriptures in their mother tongue, Armenian Sign Language.
“The silence is broken!” said the Bible Society in Armenia’s Project Director Arshavir Kapoudjian of the joyful and colourful event. It was attended by many Deaf people, their families and church representatives. The event was full of pantomime, poetry, and songs performed by young Deaf people, including those involved in the sign language project.
The DVD of Old Testament stories in Armenian Sign Language is the first fruit of a three-part project to produce 365 Bible stories in this language. Five hundred copies have been produced and are being distributed to members of the Deaf community. Work on the second DVD, The Life of Jesus, is well under way and due for launch later this year, and work will commence next year on the final volume – The Acts.
Many years of dreaming and praying
“This is the culmination of many years of dreaming and praying,” says Mr Kapoudjian. “Fifteen years ago Father Yessayi Artenian began working with Deaf people, and learnt sign language to be able to communicate with them. I have been involved, too, running Bible study sessions for Deaf people. For four years we have been working to produce this DVD. It was only when we received funding a year ago that we were able to proceed. We are very grateful to the British and Foreign Bible Society for this support.”
Edik Hayrapetian, one of the young people involved in the project described the difficulties the team faced in putting the Scriptures into sign language.
“We have learnt so much about the Bible. One of the most important things was learning about the importance of belief. Belief is the essence of life, the way we can reach God and each other. It was through this belief that we were able to overcome the many difficulties we had when we were translating the Word of God.
‘We can’t just keep the divine Word to ourselves’
“As we began to understand, things flowed easily and we became more and more aware that we can’t just keep the divine Word to ourselves – we must share it with everyone.”
Bible Society General Secretary Yeznik Petroysan encouraged the Deaf community to spread the Word of God.
“God entrusted his Word to be shared through chosen people, such as prophets, apostles, Church Fathers. Today, you have the translation of the first part of the Holy Bible in your language. God has chosen you to spread his Word to the people.”
His Eminence Archbishop Navasard Ktchoyan, Vicar of the Araratian Patriarchal Diocese, thanked those involved in the project.
“The seeds sown in your souls have brought forth the fruit of these DVDs. This marvelous event coincides with the day of silence but for the Deaf, silence is a lifestyle. Now, in that silence, you hear God’s voice. God’s life-giving word is registered in your hearts, thus turning you into active witnesses of spreading God’s Word.”
At an Easter event at a School for the Deaf in Yerevan, the Bible Society distributed copies of the DVD to students and teachers (see video and photos below.)