Indigenous Bible launch for Paraguay

Translators working in Paraguay have announced the publication of the first ever Bible for the Southern Enxet people [Éxnet Sur], an indigenous people group living in the Gran Chaco region

Translators working in Paraguay have announced the publication of the first ever Bible for the Southern Enxet people [Éxnet Sur], an indigenous people group living in the Gran Chaco region of Western Paraguay. 

Developed jointly between the Church Mission Society [CMS], Paraguayan Bible Society and the Anglican Church of Paraguay, the publication of the Enxet Bible was officially acknowledged in a special ceremony hosted by the Bishop of Paraguay, Peter Bartlett, on 16 April. 

Tim Curtis, CMS mission partner and project leader, (pictured) has devoted over 25 years of his life to the project. A first version of the Enxet New Testament was completed in 1997 but now this has been revised and incorporated into the complete Bible translation which is ready for publication. 

Tim described the team’s feelings after seeing the arrival of the new Bible. He said; “We felt emotional and then went quiet as we took stock of what it means to hold the Bible in our hands. People have been waiting for a long time for this Bible with great expectations.”

Curtis and his team of translators, completed the work started by the Anglican Church some 100 years ago when missionaries first arrived in Paraguay and developed a script for the Enxet people. Although not designated an official Paraguayan language, the Enxet tongue is still widely spoken in the region and frequently used in prayers and worship in churches across the Paraguayan Chaco. 

At the recent confirmation of 120 new believers, Bishop Bartlett outlined the difficulties indigenous believers face. “Standing up and being counted as a Christian is not easy in the Paraguayan Chaco, where life is seen through the distinct lens of the spirit world and the spiritual powers of the shaman, which are often feared yet also sought out in times of crisis”.

The team have now turned their attention to producing audio resources and will focus on developing teaching materials to supplement the Bible translation. Curtis explained their motivation: “The Southern Enxet people number 9,000 and now with the Bible in their own language each person can read about the love of God for themselves. I believe that that is worth devoting 25 years of my life for.”

For much of the 20th century Paraguay was ruled by military dictatorships and authoritarian governments but in recent years Christianity has begun to prosper among the indigenous population of the Chaco, where there are many churches. Four thousand copies have been printed and by removing the language barrier church leaders hope the new translation, will not only deepen the faith of indigenous believers but address the overall level of literacy which is poor across the region.

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