Bible translation and literacy

Crowd of PapuansPapua is remarkable for its diversity of languages. Due mainly to its inhospitable, rugged terrain and history of continual warfare between tribes, Papua’s population of about 2.5 million is only 0.04% of the world’s population but has 4% of the world’s languages.

Papua has over 250 distinct languages, many of which are still unwritten and only three have a complete Bible translation. World Team has worked with the national church to complete translations of the entire Bible in Western Dani, Hupla and Yali.

The task of translating the Bible into the heart languages of the people of Papua is an enormous one, but history has shown the life-changing ability of the Gospel message, bringing an end to constant tribal warfare and to the bondage of living in fear of spirits. There have been dramatic changes in the lives of many, and today World Team personnel are continuing the work of Bible translation into Papuan languages. Below are some of the stories of the work to bring God’s Word to Papua.

Translation in action

Western Dani

Just over fifty years ago, missionary work began among the Western Dani tribe, one of the largest tribes in Papua, with a population approaching 250,000 people.

Today there are over eight hundred Western Dani churches, and three Bible schools run in the Western Dani language.

The New Testament was first published in Western Dani in 1980, and after many more years of patient work, the Old Testament in 2003. Today a translation team made up from World Team and other mission personnel, as well as Dani Christians, are completing a full revision of the New Testament and reviewing again the Old Testament. They are preparing to publish these new revisions, and meanwhile have also produced a children’s Bible containing popular Bible stories and illustrations.


The New Testament was translated into the Hupla language by World Team missionaries and published in 1994.

The Hupla OT has also been translated and is currently being revised. It is due for printing sometime in the next year. This complete Bible will be used by the Hupla tribe of around three thousand people, as well as probably another fifteen thousand tribespeople in the Lower Grand Valley whose dialect is related.


The translation of the Momuna New Testament has been completed and currently awaiting printing in Java. Work continues on the Momuna Old Testament. These translation efforts have been the work of national (Papuan) Bible translators overseen and supported by World Team missionaries.


The translation of the New Testament into the Kimyal language is now completed after many years work, and is due for printing by the end of 2009.


World Team personnel have commenced work on translating the New Testament into the Duiwe language, whose tribal group lives in the south coast region below the central mountains.


World Team missionaries have been involved in the translation and publishing of the Sawi New Testament and early parts of the Bible.


The complete translation of the Yali Bible was published in the year 2000, after the work of national translators, facilitated and supported by World Team.

Distributing new Bibles in churches

Many other languages still remain in Papua without any translation of the Gospel. Even for tribes who have their own translation, there is still much work needed in the teaching of literacy so that those who hold God’s Word are able to read it for themselves. Do you feel the challenge to contribute towards these urgent goals?