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Finding Hidden Diaspora Languages: Who is looking? January 19, 2022

Posted by Pete B in Bible Translation, multilingualism, refugees, Scripture Engagement, Statistics.
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As part of my wider interest in Multilingual Church this is part 3 in a series on finding hidden diaspora languages. This section looks at “who is interested” (which includes perhaps anyone who makes it to the bottom of this blog), and who is interested enough to collect and explore the actual data.

Lots of organisations, both Christian and secular, collect and share information about or for the many diaspora communities

“Diaspora” is a title used both by self defined members of specific diaspora communities and those outside.

Today, some churches and Christian organisations talk about diaspora mission and think in terms of how we can find many ‘unreached peoples’ living in some of the major cities of the world. 

But how many? Which ones? And how do we connect?

Global Gates is one example of an American mission organisation, asking “Where should Christians prioritize work and prayer to see the least-evangelized peoples in North America reached with the gospel?”. Their publicly downloadable data covers just under 60 people groups across 60 metropolitan areas in the USA. They invite submissions of new information but state: “the people group must number at least 5,000 in the city to be included”.

Several other organisations including PeopleGroups.info and Joshua Project are looking for and sharing information.  Most are still only scratching the surface in terms of diaspora language information, but at least they are raising the questions. 

Who lives around us? 

Where else can we find members of a specific people group outside of their homeland? 

Personally, I have been interacting with other data sources and some of the people behind them for a number of years, first as a writer, webmaster, and communications specialist with Wycliffe UK, Wycliffe Canada and Wycliffe Global Alliance, then as an advocate and explorer of digital engagement (an emerging field within Scripture Engagement), and more recently in a broader field of missiology as well as data specialist with the SIL Global diaspora team.

In the last few years SIL has begun to talk about MUSE (Multilingualism Urbanisation and Scripture Engagement). We knew that people weren’t just moving from the villages to the cities, they were moving all over the world. And so without adding to the acronym there quietly emerged an SIL Global Diaspora Team, gathering data, stories, and a lot of questions with a remit, “to help SIL discern and articulate best modes of engagement with dispersed language communities and those who serve them, and to encourage and develop initiatives that advance meaningful development, education, and engagement with Scripture in urban, refugee and broader diaspora contexts.”

It is helpful to ask who else is interested in the questions of where languages are being spoken, and what languages people speak? Two clear audiences are Bible Translation agencies and Churches but they are not the only people. Governments and agencies collect or at least use what is available in terms of data on languages to plan and provide services. Thinking about who else wants to know opens up the way for discovering partnerships or data sources.

Questions I asked when presenting at the Bible Translation conference included:

  • Who is responsible in our organisation for knowing where to look and who to ask?
  • Is there someone responsible in your organisation?
  • How do we connect?

You can find key organisations, authors, and data sets through literature reviews, google searches, following some key social media feeds, and occasionally doing searches for key terms showing up in the news such as “languages” , “multilingual”, “multicultural” and “intercultural”.

Here are just a few of the organisations I’ve identified that collect information on communities and/or languages. They are all talking to each other yet but a lot of the available data can be explored and analysed.

Open Doors doesn’t specifically give information on languages but provides information about religious persecution of Christians. Many of the remaining needs for Bible translation are in countries on Open Doors World Watch list and different ethnic groups from these countries are often among the hidden diaspora, not yet recorded on the sites above.

The graphic at the top of the page also includes some sites for accessing scripture and other resources. The final links on this page points back to my first post in this series Finding Hidden Diaspora Languages: Intro and a bit more on Why it matters.

a million migrants needed help, the US responded March 7, 2017

Posted by Pete B in refugees.
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A powerful poem read some famous actors and posted by the UN invites you to imagine what it’s like to flee your home…

…many people don’t have to imagine today, because they are living the ordeal.

Many others can remember when the unthinkable happened to them.


The US is used to violence in its cities, and to posting armed guards in some its schools and churches, but when it comes to people in their thousands losing their homes and possessions the biggest danger is the weather. When hurricane Katrina struck in 2005 Americans across in the nation responded.

On Monday March 6th, 2017 the US President signed a new executive order aimed at keeping ‘bad people’ from entering the country. There are bad people in every country living alongside the ordinary people – that’s why we have locks on our doors. Security is an issue but when disaster strikes the answer isn’t to refuse refuge because not every refugee is safe.

image: wikipedia

In the UK we face our own challenges as, the Dubs amendment , a scheme to aid child migrants is closed down at the end of the month. There is however ongoing debate and a fresh move requiring local councils to identify capacity to help house refugee children was defeated. (Earlier reports suggest thirty Conservative MPs would vote in favour of this, sadly only three did)

Across the world, people who are safe in their homes, face the challenge of what they should do to help those who have lost everything.

If you didn’t click to watch the video in the UN tweet earlier here it is again.

If you had to flee what would you take?

If you have had to flee, what were you able to bring? Have you been able to tell your story?

Questions of Refuge February 20, 2017

Posted by Pete B in refugees.
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Two men recently appeared photographed with bandaged stumps where once they had hands. Who are they? Who was to blame? Could it have been avoided? and what should happen next?

These are the kind of questions that should come to mind presented when with such an image. There are plenty of others.

bbcnewsmigrantsTheir names are Seidu Mohammed and Razak Iyal and you can read their story on the BBC website. Both come from Ghana. Both had found their way to the USA, a land of hope and opportunity, and been refused refugee status. Facing deportation they had tried to cross the border into Canada, unaware of just how extreme the winter weather was. When they were found their hands had frozen so severely that amputation of their fingers was the only option.

No-one acted unlawfully, except the men themselves. But that does not mean the blame sits squarely with them. I do not know whether these men should have been granted refugee status or not, but I do believe the system and the world is broken.

In a town just over the border Canadians are nervous at the number of people crossing the border illegally and knocking on their doors for help, but in such circumstances turning them away is not an option.

In Europe it is the sea that claims lives, and the desperation that forces people to take the risk.

There are still countries willing to shoot people trying to leave, or trying to enter. Borders and oceans are dangerous places. People don’t cross them lightly without permission.

In the Old Testament Israel was given various instructions on how to respond to strangers living among them, and how they were to remember there own time as refugees and then as slaves in Egypt.

Migration is a complex issue. There are pushes of war, famine, persecution, or individual situations. There are pulls of safety, opportunity, education, political or social freedoms.

I’m grateful to the many open borders within Europe and aware that Britain voted to leave the EU in part to regain control over who can and cannot enter freely.

The scale of what is labeled a refugee crisis can be shown in numbers as in the ones from the UN Refugee agency  illustrated at https://www.lucify.com/the-flow-towards-europe/  but numbers and dots on a map are faceless.

What is the refugee crisis?

Is the problem:

  • That millions are forced to flee their homes in search of safety?
  • That desperate people are taking desperate measures, and dying in the process?
  • That people are arriving in large numbers and we don’t know how to help?
  • That we don’t think our infrastructure can cope with so many new arrivals?
  • That we are afraid of refugees and their impact on our lives?

Perhaps the problem is all of these

If you’ve not seen this video from 2015 covering the Syrian refugee crisis, take a look now. It doesn’t cover the crisis from all angles and it does use the phrase “Xenophobic rich cowards behind fences”. It clearly has an agenda that says we should all be doing more.

People move from a lot of different places, for a lot of different reasons, with a lot of different histories, cultures and languages.

In another great video (less infographic and more possible answers) Alexander Betts states:

Around the world, we present refugees with an almost impossible choice between three options: encampment, urban destitution and dangerous journeys.

Alexander Betts: Our refugee system is failing. Here’s how we can fix it (TED talk, Feb 2016)

Alexaner, traces the history of modern refugee policies, looks at the problems, and identifies some positive steps including work done in Uganda.

We’ve migrated a few times. I’ve lived in nearly twenty homes in fifteen towns on three continents and had several times of not knowing where I (and later we) would live next. I know a little of what it feels to be a stranger, and I have been so grateful for those who have made us welcome so many times.

More from me on this subject again soon.

Until then here are a few useful resources.


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