The people of New Caledonia have been Christians for generations but many still do not have the Bible in their heart language.
Missionaries reached the island in the 1840s and, as people began to respond to the gospel, they translated the Bible into the three languages of Drehu, Laai, and Nengone.
Today, these languages, which are spoken by 26,000 people, are still the only indigenous languages to have the full Bible. Currently, there are around 30 indigenous languages, many of which are considered to be endangered, spoken by New Caledonia’s 285,000 speakers, who are known as Kanaks.
Like the cagou bird, an endangered species of bird which is endemic to the dense mountain forests of New Caledonia, many of these languages are in need of special protection. Already, one language has become extinct, one is critically endangered, four are severely endangered, five are endangered, and another five are vulnerable to extinction.
The most widely spoken language on the main island of Grande Terre is Ajië.
It is used in churches, with sermons, prayers, and hymns all conducted in Ajië. Yet Ajië speakers, who have been Christians for generations, still do not have the full Bible in their language.
The Ajië New Testament was published in 1922, followed by the Psalms in the 1960s.
In 2014, Bible Society published a revision of the Ajië New Testament with new orthography. It was warmly welcomed by Christians across the island who are excited at the ongoing work to translate the Old Testament, due for completion in 2025. Bible Society is also translating the New Testament into Bwatoo and Nelemwa for the first time.