A Bible for the Banyala Community

Written by BSkenya

March 23, 2017

The Bible Society of Kenya has continued to place the Bible in many people’s hands through its translation work. As a result, 21 complete Bibles have been translated into local languages. The most recently launched Bible is the Oluluyia Bible which was launched on July 2016 during a very colorful event where the community was very excited to receive the Bible in their own language after 23 years of translation.

Mr. Thomas Tharao Head of Operations addressing Pastors during the meeting

A coalition of pastors from Banyala speaking group approached BSK requesting to have a Bible translated in Kinyala, as they could not fully relate with the other existing Luhya Bibles which include; Lunyore, Lubukusu, Logooli, Lukakamega; Lutirichi/Lwitakho/ Lwisukha and Oluluyia Bible (for the Marama/ Shisa/ Tsotso/Wanga).  Following the request, BSK planned for a meeting with Church leaders in Navakholo Kakamega County to forge a way forward on the possibility and necessity of the translation project for the Banyala. The meeting took place on 6th March 2017 at Friends Church Chebuyusi, and 20 pastors from various denominations in the region were in attendance.

The Banyala are Bantu ethnic group that originated from Uganda and are a result of intermarriages between Banyoro and Baganda. After migrating from Uganda, the Banyala settled in Kakamega and Busia counties.  Since culture does not exist in isolation, some aspects of the Banyala culture have been influenced by interaction with other Luhya sub- groups, including borrowing and sharing of some words and meanings. According to 2009 National census, Navakholo where the Banyala reside had a population of 137,165 people while Busia had a population of 743,946 which comprised of a mixture of Banyala and a few other Luhya dialects including Luo. The population has continued to increase over the years. The Banyala’s main economic activity is farming. Like other Luhya sub-groups, the Banyala practice male circumcision as a cultural rite of passage.

The language of any community changes with time owing to external influences. If there exists no forms of preserving culture, it erodes and with time ceases to exist due to assimilation. The Church leaders expressed the uniqueness of Banyala language and the need to preserve the uniqueness; that very few of their neighbors understood Kinyala whereas the Banyala could understand most of their neighbors’ dialects. One way of preserving this unique dialect would be the translation of the Bible in Kibanyala.

The General Secretary Mrs. Elizabeth Muriuki informed the pastors that the very reason of having pastors from all denominations in the meeting was because BSK is non- denominational and would not wish to have bias and denominational influence on the final product. Inclusion of all religions in the project will ensure that the outcome (Kinyala Bible) meets everyone’s needs irrespective of their denominational affiliation.  For the project to be a success, the Church needs to fully own the project in all perspectives regardless of their differences in denominations.

One of the Pastors responding to a query raised

The audience was taken through the Bible translation process in summary by BSK translation Manager, Mr. Stephen Kimani. This gave them basic understanding of the entire process. Despite being informed that the whole translation exercise could take up to 10 years or more, the pastors expressed their enthusiasm and determination to be part of the journey.

The pastors were encouraged to participate in Programs for Pastoral Instruction (PPI) in schools near them. BSK would avail material for that. In these PPI programs, the pastors would use the developed Kinyala material to teach childre the word of God.

Also present in the meeting was the Head of Operations Mr. Thomas Tharao, Western Zone Manager Rev. Dalmas Oleko, Kakamega Branch Chairman Rev. Amos Andala and other officials, Customer Relations and Admin Officer Tabitha Wairimu, HIV Programme Assistants Joseph Irungu and Pst. Anthony Gatonye.

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