The very remote Aru Islands are located in the south-east corner of Maluku Province, Indonesia. A total of 17 languages are spoken across the 28 inhabited islands, which are home to about 90,000 people. Most Aru villages are coastal, so people make their living from the sea. Nearly all travel is by boat since there are virtually no roads outside the one town in the islands. Due to adverse weather, travel can often be very difficult.
There are primary schools in most villages in the Aru Islands, and a small – but growing – percentage (25%) of children go on to secondary education. Historically, girls were often not given the opportunity for further schooling, although this is changing now. It is also only in recent years that there has been any kind of literature published in local languages.
While there has been a church in these islands for over 100 years, many of the 75% of people baptised as Christians still hold to traditional beliefs. Their grasp of the Bible is often limited as it has only been available in the national language, which they struggle to understand. There is also a Muslim minority (about 25%). Christian outreach has been done in the national language, which is seen as a language of people outside the community. Consequently, many local people think of Christianity as an outside religion. Most do not see Jesus as someone who understands their own culture and language, and with whom they can have a personal relationship.
This project focuses on partnering with the Dobel people. Dobel Christians are eager to have access to the Bible in their own language in order to strengthen the church and help disciple believers. The Dobel team is currently translating the New Testament and portions of the Old Testament. Alongside this, they make regular visits to churches to equip them to use Scripture in their own language, and help disciple Dobel believers as they mature in their faith.
Encouraging progress has already been made on translation; the team has completed a full first draft of the New Testament as well as a number of Bible stories and church liturgies. They have also translated a Christmas-story booklet, the books of Jonah and Ruth, and the Joseph story from Genesis. As a growing number of Aru people use smartphones, a Bible app has also been developed for Dobel speakers to access Scripture.
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