Today, September 8, is International Literacy Day, a day so designated to draw attention to issues of literacy in the world, including the link between poverty and the inability to read and write. Appropriately enough, the ELCSL is sponsoring a Krio literacy workshop this week. In partnership with the ELCA, the Sierra Leone Bible Society, and The Institute of Sierra Leonean Languages (TISLL), 17 ELCSL pastors and lay leaders are learning to read, write and teach the Krio language.
English is the official language of Sierra Leone but Krio is the language of the people. Yesterday the executive director of the Sierra Leone Bible Society challenged the workshop participants with the idea that “until a person can read and write their own language, they aren’t educated.” She was speaking to a gathering of individuals who speak Krio, English and probably at least one other language, and all of whom have completed some level of higher education. Until this week, however, few of them were able to read and write Krio.
Literacy trainers and bible translators talk about “heart language” meaning “mother tongue,” or the language people know and understand by heart, from birth. Organizations like the Bible Society, Lutheran Bible Translators, and TISLL emphasize and promote literacy in countries like Sierra Leone because scripture is best understood by people when they hear and read it in the language of their hearts. This week’s workshop is the first step in a process leading to translation of the English liturgy into Krio and introduction of the liturgy in the Krio speaking churches of the ELCSL. Most significantly for now, all the pastors and evangelists have been equipped with a Krio New Testament, and have been trained to read the gospel to their congregations in Krio. The workshop has been extremely positive so far, and I’m eager to start hearing the scripture in Krio when I attend worship in Freetown in coming weeks.