Recent figures released by the United Bible Societies (UBS) reveal that 2019 was a record-breaking year in terms of Bible provision. A decade ago, annual bible distribution was recorded as being below 30 million, but last year’s statistics show an unparalleled rise to just short of 40 million. And if every Bible, New Testament, and Scripture portion distributed by Bible Societies was added up over the last 5 years it comes to a staggering total of 1.8 billion items, enough for almost a quarter of the world’s population.
Unsurprisingly, Bible distribution is increasingly influenced by the internet. 25% of the Bibles distributed in 2019 were downloaded, reflecting the global rise in internet use. Over the last 5 years the UBS Digital Bible Library has doubled in size. This library now holds 2,500 digital versions of the Bible in 1,622 languages with the aim of making God’s Word increasingly available online via websites and smartphone apps.
It’s heartening to know that, through our efforts in 2019, millions more people are able to face the challenges of 2020 with Scripture in their hands. May God’s Word bring comfort and hope in these difficult days. And while record-breaking Bible distribution is something to celebrate, what’s more important is that we’ll see God’s Word transform individuals, their families and communities, as people engage with Scripture and its life-changing message.
Michael Perreau, Director General of UBS
While the 2019 statistics are an achievement worth celebrating, it is the stories emerging from behind the numbers for which we are most thankful.
In Brazil, a country where the effects of the Coronavirus outbreak have been particularly devastating, more than 7.7 million Bibles were distributed. In fact, one in five Bibles provided around the world were in Brazil, and the Bible Society of Brazil continues to provide more Scripture than any other on the planet.
In addition, Brazil has its own Bible Press at Bauren, in the state of Sao Paulo. The Bible Press is one of the most renowned Bible printing facilities in the world – and in 2019 was producing an astonishing 23,000 copies per day.
Every Bible printed reaches the hands of at least one person. We’re sure that easier access to the Bible’s teachings and values has enabled a lot of people to have hope and self-esteem again, in addition to finding guidance and comfort to face the difficult situations and problems of life.
Luiz Forlim, General Manager, the Bible Press
The encouragement of God’s Word is vital in countries where being a Christian is difficult or dangerous. In countries where Christians are under pressure, having access to God’s Word on a smartphone can be safer than keeping a physical copy of a Bible hidden. In 2019, many Christians in places like Iran, Yemen and Pakistan have downloaded full Bibles.
But Bible Societies also distribute printed Scripture too. In Lebanon, for example, the Bible Society has an on-going work reaching out in refugee camps with aid packages containing Bibles.
Back home in Iraq we were persecuted and harassed. The neighbours changed our garden lights to red to scare us. They poisoned our fruits and vegetables. We received notes with threats. They broke into our house to attack us. We had to hide, once we stayed inside our bathroom for five hours. We prayed, ‘God why don’t you help us?’ After that we had to leave everything behind and abandon our country. This is where we found the answer to our prayers: in the Gospel of John 1: 9-14 – ‘He gave them the right to be the children of God.’
Bible Societies around the world are delivering a message of hope – the knowledge that anyone can find lasting peace and security within God’s family. Behind the statistics an encouraging story is emerging: that more people are reading Scripture in more formats and more languages and lives are being transformed. Please continue to pray for the work and mission both of the Scottish Bible Society and Bible Societies across the world.
The Scottish Bible Society is a founding member of the United Bible Societies(UBS) – a network of Bible Societies operating in over 200 countries and territories around the world. The UBS Fellowship continues to be the largest translator and distributor of Scripture on the planet; around 70% of the world’s full Bible translations have been provided by Bible Societies. For more information visit http://www.unitedbiblesocieties.org.