The Sango-speaking people who reside in the Central African Republic number approximately 5,100,000, while those living in Chad and Republic of the Congo number about 117,000. Nearly 77% of the population profess Christianity, 32% of whom claim to be evangelical. Of the remaining population, about 10% adhere to traditional African religions, and a growing number follow Sunni Islam. The literacy rate for the total population is about 51%, with a substantially higher rate among males than females.
In 1920, when Baptist Mid-Missions began to minister in what would become the Central African Republic, no written language existed for the Sango. Only the French Bible, primarily used by the Catholics, was available to the tribal people. William C. Haas, the founder of Baptist Mid-Missions and an extremely gifted linguist, felt a great burden to see the Bible in the hands of all new converts. Even before the organization of BMM, Haas began writing down languages and translating portions of Scripture.
Instead of translating the Bible into the numerous tribal languages, Haas decided to concentrate on the trade language spoken by several tribes, Sango, since he believed this would unify the church. His vision proved correct, as not only the church but also the entire country unified around Sango when it later became the national language of the Central African Republic. After BMM completed the first Sango New Testament in 1932, Grace Brethren Mission joined with BMM in translating the Old Testament. Nearly fifty years after BMM missionaries entered Africa, the first complete Sango Bible arrived in Sibut in the Central African Republic in November 1966.
Over time the Sango language changed, reducing the adequacy and clarity of the original translation, so in 2006 Bibles International began to revise the original Sango Bible translation with a new team of editors and revisers from the CAR churches. Intending to preserve the original character of the translation, the revision team has met with BI consultants over the years. The revisions primarily focus on vocabulary and grammar, working through varying orthographies for the Sango language, changing word meanings based on current usage, and considering other linguistic variations. Despite the challenges, the project has progressed through the publication of three trial editions and a Christmas storybook.
It was a large crowd that gathered for the 4-day celebration in Bangui on November 14-18, 2023. The two-fold purpose for this special event was 1) the dedication of the newly revised Sango Bible, and 2) the commemoration of over 100 years of Baptist Mid-Missions ministry in the Central African Republic. The stadium in downtown Bangui was rented for the final day of celebrating, and the president of the country attended. The day was filled with singing, prayers, acknowledgments, presentations, and a powerful message, all of which culminated in a parade led by a man carrying the Sango Bible and a couple carrying a torch. The event was a worthy celebration of 100 years of mission work and 16 years of Bible translation. To God be the glory, great things He has done.