The Dagba New Testament Project

Profile of the Dagba-speaking People

Location

  • Chad and Central Africa

Language Family

  • Part of the Sara-Bagirmi family

Speakers 

  • 48,000 total
  • 12,000 in Chad
  • 36,000 in the Central African Republic

Religion

  • 55% of the Dagba practice ethnic religions
  • 30% of the Dagba profess Christianity
  • 15 – 20% are Evangelical

Literacy

  • There was not written language before 1996
  • Clarissa Barton and Connie Champeon developed the written language
  • Literacy primers were published in 1998

Existing Bible Translations

  • This is a first-language project

DagbaTranslationCommitteeOverview

In 1925 Baptist Mid-Missions entered French Equatorial Africa. The French declared Sango to be the legal trade language. In 1960 France gave independence to its African Colonies. French Equatorial Africa was divided into four independent countries.  The Central African Republic and Chad were two of these countries. The Dagba people reside in both the Central African Republic and in Chad.

In Chad, the use of Sango language was declared illegal because it is not a Chadian language. The Dagba, therefore, have used a Chadian language, usually a language called Sara Madjingaye, in their church service. Unfortunately, this language was not understood by the majority of the Dagba people. As a result, the pastors of the Chadian Dagba churches read the Scriptures in Sara Madjingaye and then interpret it into Dagba.

The Dagba in Central Africa need Scripture in their own language as much if not more than in Chad, because the Dagba language has no linguistic resemblance to Sango. Dagba is the same as the difference between English and French or Spanish. The second reason why the Dagba in Central Africa really need a translation in their own language is that Sango is not taught in the schools, so very few people know how to read Sango. They understand the Sango spoken at the market and what is preached in church services, but any words in the Bible that are a little more technical they don’t understand.

In February 1995 Pastor Pierre Mimga who had served 40 years in Chad before pastoring in a Dagba church in the Central Africa Republic said of the Dagba translation work to begin in Chad, "I ask you to pray very, very much that the Bible in our language would come out. Whenever you hear the clapping of hands, it means something is very, very happy."

The Dagba in Chad have been very faithful in giving towards their Bible Translation project. The churches in Central Africa have not been able to help much with the project because of the political unrest that started in 1995. The constant insecurity and danger in travel has cut them off from communicating with the Dagba churches in Chad.  Nevertheless, the Chadian Dagba churches have shouldered the greater load and have shown great zeal in this project.

 

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