Banned Books Week is an annual celebration of the right to read. Banned Books Week 2018 will be held September 23rd through 29th, and as in years past will include special events and displays at both libraries and bookstores across the country. Begun in 1982 as a collaboration between the American Library Association, the American Booksellers Association, the Association of American Publishers and the National Association of College Stores, Banned Books Week aims to raise awareness of censorship problems in the United States and abroad.
An earlier post on this blog was about how though the Bible is the best-selling book in the world, it is one of the least read. Banned Books Week reminds us that it is also one of the most banned/challenged books in the world, even in the United States. In 2015, the Bible was one of the top 10 most challenged books in America, coming in at #6. The reason most often cited was “religious viewpoint.”
As troubling as this is, the challenges to the Bible in U.S. public libraries and schools pale in comparison to the restrictions placed on the Bible in other parts of the world. Here are just a few examples:
In North Korea, possession of a Bible or other religious literature is punishable by death or imprisonment. In one particularly heart-breaking report, Vernon Brewer, founder and president of humanitarian organization World Help told Fox News that he often thinks about a case involving a girl named Eun, whose third-grade teacher gave the class a “special assignment” to go home and “look for a book” and if it’s the right book, the student will be honored. Eun ended up finding a Bible. “The next day she received a prize at her school. But when Eun returned home, her parents weren’t there,” he recalled. “It’s hard to imagine such cruelty that would unknowingly turn children on their own parents.”
Morocco allows Bibles in French, English, and Spanish, but not Arabic. Arabic is the official language of the country, and the one spoken and read by the vast majority of the population.
Maldives, which requires that all citizens be Muslim, restricts Bibles to foreigners living in the country. It is illegal for a citizen to own one.
Turkmenistan prohibits the publication of Bibles. They can be imported by the few registered churches in limited numbers, and only with permission.
And while in some countries where printed Bibles are restricted people could read the Bible online, many nations restrict Internet access in a way that makes even this difficult to impossible. They include Belarus, China, Cuba, Iran, Libya, Maldives, Myanmar, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.
So during Banned Books Week next week, as you support the right to read previously challenged books ranging from The Old Man and the Sea to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, take a moment to remember and speak out for those here at home and around the world who have been denied access to the Bible as well.