A leading Catholic charity is celebrating the 30th anniversary of its Bible for children.
Over the last three decades, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) has printed more than 47 million copies of the Child’s Bible – God Speaks to His Children – which has been translated into 160 different languages, and distributed in 140 countries world-wide.
Maria Zurowski, head of ACN’s Family Apostolate department, which oversees production of the Child’s Bible, outlined the importance of the book.
She said, “During the 30 years of its existence, the book has been instrumental in bringing the message of Jesus to countless souls and has become a symbol of hope in a better future for thousands of children and adults around the world – in the true spirit of the missionary work of the Church, to which ACN is making its own distinctive contribution.”
As well as being used by priests and teachers for catechesis, it is also used to help children learn to read, as for a number of ethnic groups this is the only book printed in their mother tongue.
Zurowski said, “In Africa, there are around 2,000 languages spoken by people across the continent. Many of them have waited a long time for a Child’s Bible in their native language – and many more are still waiting.”
This is the case of Mambwe – one of the new languages in which the book was published in 2009. The Mambwe tribe was the first to accept the Catholic Faith in Zambia, in 1891, and the Child’s Bible will be one of the first books to be printed in the language. The only others available are the New Testament, and books of tribal folklore and proverbs.
The book will be freely distributed in Zambia to catechumens, and schools will be given copies so that it can be used in teaching.
According to Zurowski the success of the Child’s Bible is its availability in the children’s own language: “The native language is the language in which one prays and cries.”
From its beginnings the project was made possible by benefactors’ donations so that the Child’s Bible could be distributed in poor countries free of charge.
In the U.S. the Child’s Bible is offered for a suggested donation of $5 and for every such donation made by benefactors the charity can send three copies overseas. “It is a gift from the benefactors of ACN to the children of the world,” said Zurowski.
She explained how the initiative for the Child’s Bible came from the charity’s founder Fr. Werenfried van Straaten. In 1979, Fr. van Straaten presented a first draft of the book to the Latin American Bishops’ Conference – and they promptly asked for 1.2 million copies in Spanish. Versions in English, French and Portuguese – as well as several regional languages – quickly followed.
Bishop Marc Benjamin Ramaroson of Farafangana in Madagascar described how important the Child’s Bible was to help the children learn about the Faith. He said: “When I had just finished my theology studies, I saw parcels of little Bibles arriving in the diocese – God speaks to his Children in Malagasy.”
The bishop continued, saying, “It was providential for me as a young priest to have in my hands such a wonderful instrument for initiating people into knowledge of Holy Scripture, both for the children and the not so young.”
The illustrated, full-color book has 99 chapters which contain the key Scripture passages from the Old and New Testaments.