A Moral Responsibility
It was wedged between the electric bill and a Christmas card when I first spied it—a bright orange Bible Society brochure emblazoned with a memorable slogan: “If they can’t read the words, they can’t read the Word.” For a moment, and then longer, I forgot about the high cost of operating a refrigerator and the friends to whom I owed a holiday greeting. For a moment, I glimpsed a world I found hard to imagine—a world where written language has little meaning, where the progress of the gospel depends on tongues and ears far more than eyes.
It was a good lesson for a future editor to absorb, for I’m accustomed to visually devouring whatever print lies nearest. The orderly progression of letters on a page, by which most of my world is made accessible to me, mystifies and confuses the one who has not had my privileges. And while we justly celebrate the advancing literacy rate in nations all around the globe, we dare not miss the fact that fully one in five adults in our world is still unable to read.* In some regions, only one in five can read.
Access to the Word of God is problematic even in many areas where literacy rates are climbing. Bible translations currently reach only a modest fraction of the world’s language groups. Adventists everywhere ought to remember that the Bible study we rightly urge as the duty of every believer is conditioned by the ability to read the Word in a familiar language. There is a skill even more basic than comparing text with text, and we morally obligate ourselves to support literacy efforts each time we urge men and women to turn to God’s Word.
Two articles in this issue of Adventist World bring home this point—“Empowering Women in India” (cover story) and “Meeting the Needs of Children.” As you enjoy these pieces and are inspired by them, commit yourself this month to sharing your reading skills with someone else.