Bahai News - President of Botswana praises publication of Baha'i books in native Setswana language
President of Botswana praises publication of Baha'i books in native
GABORONE, Botswana, 16 June 2001 (BWNS) -- In a book launch ceremony,
President Festus Mogae of Botswana hailed the publication of two Baha'i books
in the native Setswana language, saying it would help encourage the country's
people to maintain their native language.
Speaking at a reception held on 27 February to introduce the two books, which
are collections of Baha'i prayers and scriptures, President Mogae said the
volumes "are a welcome contribution to the development of Setswana
"Many young people struggle to read Setswana fluently and would rather
read English," said President Mogae. "Unfortunately, the situation is
exacerbated by the fact that there is only a handful of Setswana
literature available in book shops."
Titled "Dithapelo tsa Baha'i" and "Mafoko a a Subilweng," which mean
respectively "Baha'i Prayers" and "The Hidden Words," the books are
published by the Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of Botswana. The
prayers and sacred verses they contain are intended to provide
inspiration to the followers of all religions and to be a contribution
to Setswana literature.
The translators spent many years of work to ensure that the Setswana of
these translations is beautiful and fluent. This was a difficult task
because the prayers and scriptures in English are written in an elegant
literary style using very poetic language.
The Setswana translation had to reflect the beauty of the original
without changing its meaning. With the help of a computer, the
translators produced seven draft versions of Dithapelo tsa Baha'i before
they were satisfied with their work.
President Mogae also said the translation and publication of the two
books was an important reflection of the country's commitment to
"They are being published in an atmosphere in which there is respect for
fundamental human rights and freedoms of the individual including the
right to worship," said President Mogae. "Freedom of religion is one of
the rights entrenched in the Constitution of Botswana."
"The publication of Dithapelo tsa Baha'i and Mafoko a a Subilweng
constitutes a significant milestone in the history of the Baha'i Faith
in Botswana," added President Mogae. "The two books are a manifestation
of the steady growth of Baha'i in this country and underline the
importance of the universal character of spirituality. God speaks to all
humanity in the languages that they understand."
Both books use Setswana idioms and figures of speech. They are written
in a style that readers find appropriate for holy scriptures. As an
assistance to readers, each book contains a glossary of difficult
The book of prayers, which has the full title of "Dithapelo tsa Baha'i
tse di Senotsweng ke Baha'u'llah, Bab le 'Abdu'l-Baha," ("Baha'i Prayers
revealed by Baha'u'llah, the Bab and 'Abdu'l-Baha") brings together a
selection of Baha'i prayers revealed by the Central Figures of the
Baha'i Faith. Although a few of the prayers are specifically for
Baha'is, the majority are inspirational for all readers. For the life of
the spirit there are prayers for spiritual growth, detachment,
forgiveness, assistance, protection, praise and gratitude; for special
times of the day there are dawn prayers, morning prayers, evening
prayers and prayers for those about to set out on a journey.
There are also prayers for children, youth, families, marriage and a
section of prayers specially for women; there are prayers for the
departed, for healing and for tests and difficulties. At the end of the
book an attempt has been made to translate one short prayer into fifteen
of the other languages spoken in Botswana.
"Mafoko a a Subilweng a ga Baha'u'llah," known as "The Hidden Words of
Baha'u'llah" in English, is a collection of short, inspirational verses
written by the Founder of the Baha'i Faith, Baha'u'llah. The title is
taken from a tradition in Islam that the Angel Gabriel uttered these
beautiful verses for the grieving daughter of the Prophet Muhammad to
comfort her upon the passing of her illustrious Father. The tradition
states that these words of spiritual comfort would remain as a "hidden
book" until the coming of the Promised One. Amongst the signs that would
identify the Promised One is that He would reveal this hidden book to
mankind. Each verse in the book reveals spiritual truths and offers
guidance by which we should live our lives.
Three translators worked together to produce the two books: Stella
"Mumsie" Moncho, Lally Warren and Gerald Warren. All are members of the
Baha'i Faith and residents of Botswana.
Ms. Moncho was born into the royal family of the Barolong ba ga Tshidi.
Her late husband was a school inspector, first for the Bechuanaland
Administration and then, later, for Government of Botswana. At the age
of 92, Ms. Moncho has absorbed a Setswana vocabulary that can only be
described as encyclopaedic, as well as developing a refined sense of
what elegant Setswana should sound like.
Lally Warren was born in Serowe, Botswana, and is the daughter of Ms.
Moncho. She has inherited much of her parents' knowledge and love for
Setswana. Although a nurse by profession, for the past fifteen years she
has traveled widely in her role as a Continental Counsellor of the
Baha'i Faith. Her motivation to get involved in translation work was her
desire to see the beauty of the Baha'i prayers and scriptures in English
rendered befittingly into Setswana. She is currently co- authoring with
Desmond Cole, former Professor of African Languages at Wits University
in South Africa, a comprehensive Setswana-English dictionary, which is
set for publication in 2002.
Gerald Warren is a primary-school teacher who came to Botswana in 1979.
Married to Ms. Warren, he collaborated in the translation work and was
largely responsible for checking the spelling, proofreading and
typesetting the final work.
©Copyright 2001, Baha'i World News Service
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