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Society

Jehovah's Witnesses Translate The Bible In Indigenous Language — Is This Colonialism?

The Jehovah's Witnesses in Chile have launched a Bible version translated into the native Mapudungun language, evidently indifferent to the concerns of a nation striving to save its identity from the Western cultural juggernaut.

Mapuche family

A Mapuche family awaits for Chilean President Gabriel Boric to arrive at the traditional Te Deum in the Cathedral of Santiago, on Chile's Independence Day.

Claudio Andrade

NEUQUÉN — The Bible can now be read in Mapuzugun, the language of the Mapuche, an ancestral nation living across Chile and Argentina. It took the Chilean branch of the Jehovah's Witnesses, a latter-day Protestant church often associated with door-to-door proselytizing and cold calling, three years to translate it into "21st-century Mapuzugun".

The church's Mapuche members in Chile welcomed the book when it was launched in Santiago last June, but some of their brethren see it rather as a cultural imposition. The Mapuche were historically a fighting nation, and fiercely resisted both the Spanish conquerors and subsequent waves of European settlers. They are still fighting for land rights in Chile.


The Mapuche Confederation of Neuquén made clear on Facebook that they view the Biblia Mapuzugun Mateo-Apocalipsis as another attempt "at colonization and religious domination" using that church's "enormous economic power". For the Mapuche, the language is both "a symbol of identity" and "vehicle of ethical values". Mapuzugun, it stated, links the Mapuche to their land, and conveys "knowledge and values through ritual and ceremonial practices.

200 year-old Bible

The Bible has been translated in countless languages.

Philipp Schulze/dpa/ZUMA

A 500-year-old story

While it said the Mapuche "respectfully" interact with the white population and their culture, "this does not mean ... confusion or mixing". The Confederation said it would "condemn and reject" any bid to introduce an "outside religion" through a language "that is foreign to it, in order to change us and turn us into people alien to ourselves." Some 250,000 people currently speak Mapuzugun or mapudungún in southern Chile and Argentina.

For the Mapuche, the language is "a symbol of identity".

The head of the Jehovah's Witnesses remote translation office in Chile, Rodrigo Pérez, says the Mapuche are traditionally respectful of religion, though "the majority" had no literacy in their own language. Geraldine Abarca, a bilingual education specialist who attended the Bible launch in Chile, said it is "interesting" and probably more effective to promote "an understanding of the world" in one's own language.

Is this patronizing? They're repeating in different words what the Europeans have been telling native Americans for 500 years — that they are not civilized.

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How U.S. Airlines Are Doing Cuba's Dirty Work On American Soil

American and Southwest Airlines have been refusing to allow Cubans on board flights if they've been blacklisted by the government in Havana.

How U.S. Airlines Are Doing Cuba's Dirty Work On American Soil

Boarding a plane in Camaguey, Cuba

Santiago Villa

On Sunday, American Airlines refused to let Cuban writer Carlos Manuel Álvarez board a Miami flight bound for Havana. It was at least the third time this year that a U.S. airline refused to let Cubans on board to return to their homeland after Havana circulated a government "blacklist" of critics of the regime. Clearly undemocratic and possibly illegal under U.S. law, the airlines want to make sure to cash in on a lucrative travel route, writes Colombian journalist Santiago Villa:

-OpEd-

Imagine for a moment that you left your home country years ago because you couldn't properly pursue your chosen career there. It wasn't easy, of course: Your profession is not just singularly demanding, but even at the top of the game you might not be assured a stable or sufficient income, and you've had to take on second jobs, working in bars and restaurants.

This chosen vocation is that of a writer or journalist, or perhaps an artist, which has kept you tied to your homeland, often the subject of your work, even if you don't live there anymore.

Since leaving, you've been back home several times, though not so much for work. Because if you did, you would be followed in cars and receive phone calls to let you know you are being watched.

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