Journeying with the diaspora
By Deb Fox | Wycliffe Today Winter 2022 edition |
From left: Graham Scott; Jack Hibbard; Tomer Opat
It all started with a simple WhatsApp message. Diana* contacted SIL Australia about wanting to connect with other Hazaragi speakers in Australia. Word soon reached SIL Australia Director, Graham Scott, and he met up with Diana and her family to discuss ways of caring for the needs of the Hazara community in Melbourne (the largest population of speakers outside of Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan). Just two weeks later, SIL Australia was invited to attend a Persian New Year festival. The SILA team had a stall and a constant stream of people eager to chat about their language needs. There was also great interest generated in the Hazaragi language resources that were available, free of charge.
Graham says that the need for connection and belonging among diaspora groups is what motivated him to develop the Diasporas of Melbourne Project along with linguists Jack Hibbard and Tomer Opat. The team wants to discover the needs of diaspora groups in their home city of Melbourne and support them to improve literacy and language use among their communities. The pilot for the Diasporas of Melbourne Project is less than a year old but it is already creating a buzz among diaspora groups in Australia.
But what exactly are diaspora groups and why is it so important to reach them? The term ‘diaspora’ refers to a group of people who have left their indigenous homelands and are now scattered throughout the world. The term derives from the Greek words dia ‘across’ and speirein to ‘scatter’. Diaspora groups often share the same language or ethnicity, a strong, united community or a network of families or friends with a common ideology.
Graham says that many within diaspora groups are refugees who carry with them trauma from their original homelands and struggle to connect with their new surroundings:
With over 250 languages being spoken in the city of Melbourne, many of these diaspora groups are small and under-resourced. Urban spaces often pose a challenge for creating a sense of community so we want to be good neighbours by making diaspora groups feel welcomed and supported.
The team also says that even in the challenges of their new lives in Melbourne, diaspora communities have great resilience, are remarkably resourceful and determined to find new ways to live and make ends meet.
The Diasporas of Melbourne Project has been meeting with language groups to ask them how SIL Australia can support their goals of furthering language use, improving literacy, supporting educational programs, and a range of other activities that help to connect them with their communities.
For more information, or to support the project, go to https://www.sila.org.au/diaspora/ or connect with it on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100075910085707
Chinese website launch
By Deb Fox | Wycliffe Today Winter 2022 edition |
Click here for Chinese website
On the auspicious date of Chinese New Year (Tuesday, 1 February 2022) an exciting event took place: the ‘soft launch’ of the Wycliffe Bible Translators Australia Chinese language website. The team is preparing to hold an official launch on another special occasion – Pentecost (Sunday, 5 June 2022).
Jessie Wei is a Wycliffe representative for the Chinese diaspora in Australia who is fluent in Cantonese, Mandarin and English. Jessie, along with Wycliffe Australia Board member Fai Peng Chen and Wycliffe Australia member Ming Fang Strickland, helped to get the website project started with research, translation, and checking. Jessie is now focusing on her role as a rep and is passionate about connecting with the Chinese diaspora, sharing:
A diaspora group has its own language and culture. My role with Wycliffe connects me with [the Chinese diaspora] and, by God’s grace, enables us to minister to each other. Communicating with [the Chinese diaspora] in their heart language and in a culturally sensitive manner can certainly help. Chinese is the second largest population group in Australia (other than the native English speaking group). More and more Chinese churches are becoming aware of the need for Bible translation. If we communicate with Chinese people in their heart language, we can better serve them and invite them to be part of God’s mission, grow in Christlikeness and invite them to be part of extending his kingdom.
Data from the last census revealed that around 20 per cent of Australians speak a language other than English at home. The second and fourth most common languages include Mandarin (2.5 per cent) and Cantonese (1.2 per cent). Immigrants from the Chinese mainland were also the third largest group of any foreign-born people in Australia in 2020.
John Tan is the Information Technology and Communication (ITC) Manager at Wycliffe Australia. He maintains Wycliffe Australia’s website and ‘played the webmaster role’ to create the Chinese website, which he says is a helpful tool for inviting Chinese churches to partner in the work of Bible translation:
Wycliffe Australia realises the need to use the Chinese language as we share about Bible translation needs around our country. It is difficult to engage with Chinese folk in our community without knowing Mandarin – that’s where the new website comes in. The tiny bit of Chinese I know helped, as I understand how the language flows, but I would not have been able to do my part successfully if not for the support of the team around me.
Wen Lee Kuan is a Wycliffe member who has also been involved in the development of the website by recruiting people to help with the translation and checking the back translations as content is added to the site. She shares:
The soft launch helped to connect us with Chinese churches. Having a website that’s in Chinese characters is such a great tool for reaching Chinese congregations. We can understand their needs and work together. We’re excited about the official launch that’s due to take place on Pentecost – what a special gift to celebrate the translation in honour of the miracle of God speaking to people in their own languages!
Praise the Lord:
- for the feedback since the soft launch
- the ongoing synergy of the development team
- addition of a webmaster and two volunteer translators
- for the scheduled live launch on Sunday, 5 June – Pentecost Day
- that the website will communicate clearly the vision and mission of Wycliffe to Chinese churches
- for more engagement in the ministry of Bible translation among the Chinese community
- for resources to follow up those responses
- for ongoing updates and development beyond the live launch
For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
1 Numbers based on the 2016 census. New data from the 2021 census is due to be released in June 2022. “Census reveals a fast changing, culturally diverse nation” media release 20, June 2017, https://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/lookup/media%20release3, Retrieved 17 April 2022.