India – Salesian Priest translated Tiwa Bible: released in Don Bosco Umswai

24 December 2019

(ANS – Shillong– 21st December 2019 was a Red Letter Day for the Tiwa Community. On this auspicious day, the complete Tiwa Bible - “Baibil Khumur” (Holy Bible) - was released by Reverend Bishop Paul Matekatt, Bishop of Diphu, in a solemn ceremony in Umswai parish, West Karbi Anglong, Assam, in the presence of Reverend Bishop John Moolechira, Archbishop of Guwahati, Reverend Father UV Jose SDB, Chief translator, Reverend Fr Januarius Sangma SDB, Provincial of Guwahati Province, Reverend Fr Joseph Teron SDB, Vice-Provincial, Fr Basil Benny, Economer, Shri D Uphing Maslai, MAC, many priests and religious. A huge crowd witnessed the historic celebration.

The release of the Bible was preceded by the Eucharistic celebration presided over by Reverend Bishop John Moolechira, Archbishop of Guwahati. In his homily, he congratulated Fr UV Jose SDB and his team for the “unmatched” achievement of translating the Bible into Tiwa language and making it the ‘youngest’ edition among thousands of copies in different languages in the world. He urged everyone to read and reflect on the word of God as it has the power to change our lives – individually and as a society.

Reverend Bishop Paul Matekatt, Bishop of Diphu, in his speech, thanked the Chief translator and his collaborators for making the Bible available in the mother tongue of the Tiwa community. He noted that Fr UV Jose painstakingly worked for over five years, spending up to 14 hours every day to achieve the challenging task. He termed “Baibil Khumur” a treasure but the treasure is not just for show but should be utilized well. The people, particularly the young, should now learn verses of the Bible as it is now available in their own language, he further added.

Fr Januarius Sangma SDB, Provincial, expressed his joy and happiness to see the Tiwa Bible join millions of copies of the Bible being printed every day. While wholeheartedly congratulating Fr UV Jose, he also acknowledged the contribution of the ‘co-translators’ who are all past pupils of Don Bosco schools.

The first copy of the Bible was presented to Revered Bishop John Moolechira, Archbishop of Guwahati, before it was given to Bishop Paul Matekatt, Bishop of Diphu, Fr UV Jose himself, all members of the translating team and to other dignitaries. 

In his passionate speech, the man behind the noble project, Fr UV Jose, blessed the community with his impeccable Tiwa, much to the cheers of the large congregation present.

Felicitations, gratitude to God and to the people responsible, joy and happiness expressed in sweet melodies of songs and music, rhythm of dances filled the air as the ‘Monumental’ work has been accomplished. The Tiwa Bible will serve as a priceless piece of literature and spiritual gift. Fr UV Jose’s exceptional contribution will be remembered forever.  

The Tiwa or Lalung community is an indigenous tribe inhabiting mainly the states of Assam and Meghalaya of North East India. They are also found in some parts of Arunachal Pradesh, and Manipur. 

Numbering about 371,000, the 2011 census says that the total number of Tiwa speakers is only 34,800 (approximately). Hence the significance of the Tiwa Bible! Fr UV Jose has also compiled a 725-page Tiwa-English Dictionary (2014), besides textbooks up to class IV and many other books in the language, to make his contribution in the development of the “endangered” language nothing short of outstanding. Before him, the pioneer missionary, Reverend Fr Michael Balawan SDB also translated the New Testament into Tiwa. He wrote the Tiwa-English-Khasi dictionary and brought out religious and song books in the language.

Both can be called “Fathers of Tiwa Literature’. But the man of the moment deserves millions of our congratulations.

Fr Albert Thyrniang, SDB 


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