Brazil a New World Leader in Bible Publishing

Decade-long religious revival led by Evangelicals in Brazil has increased the number of congregants, and also the number of Bibles published
( [email protected] ) Aug 20, 2004 08:53 PM EDT

By far the largest and most populous country in South America, Brazil has overcome more than a half a century of military intervention in the governance of the country to pursue industrial and agricultural growth. Today it is the continent’s leading economic power and regional leader. And most recently Brazil was given a new label: one of the world’s leading publishers of Bibles.

“All 136 country-chapters of the [United Bible Societies] taken together published 21 million Bibles last year. Our share was 4.2 million,” Brazilian Bible Society Marketing Director Erni Seibert told the Associated Press. Brazil’s other publishers printed an additional 1.5 million Bibles in 2003, according to Marino Lobello, vice president of the Brazilian Book Publishers Association.

“There is no way to know for certain whether Brazil is the world leader, “said Lobello. “But we sure put out a lot of Bibles!”

According to an August 19 report by AP, a religious awakening in Brazil over the past decade, the rapid advance of evangelical churches and smart business planning by publishers have made Brazil a leader world publisher of Bibles.

“More Bibles are produced in Brazil than at any of the other Bible Societies around the world,” agreed Roy Lloyd, a spokesman for the U.S. chapter of the United Bible Societies.

A decade-long religious revival led by Biblically-based Evangelical churches have seen a dramatic increase in the numbers of congregations from 9 percent of the country’s population in 1991, to about 15 percent in 2000. Currently, about 184 million people live in Brazil now.

“We base our religion on the Bible,” Assembly of God pastor, Roberto dos Santos told AP. “We want to get people back to Jesus directly and the way to do that is for everyone to pack a Bible.”

Brazil’s tradition of piety has also made the Bible somewhat into of a status symbol and nearly every family owns one.

And the Bible craze is not limited to Protestants. According to Seibert, the charismatic movement among Roman Catholics is also strong in Brazil, generating even more demand. Although the Bible Society is rooted in Protestantism, it does not hesitate to print Roman Catholic Bibles.

“Relations with the Catholic Church are excellent,” Seibert said.

Economic factors have also contributed to the Bible boom. Seibert said the cost of producing Bibles has dropped dramatically due to the society’s huge printing plant employing just-in-time management techniques in a Sao Paulo suburb.

“I can print a full-text Bible in imitation leather with a binding that will last through 20 years of daily readings for the equivalent of three U.S. dollars,” he said.

In fact the price is so low that the society is able to produce a full-text Portuguese-language Bible in Braille, which the society distributes for free, one book at a time in 38 volumes. So far 2,000 people have signed up for the edition.

Output also includes versions in languages other than Brazil’s native Portuguese. Since its founding in 1948, the Brazilian chapter has translated the Bible into 35 of the 180 known Indian tongues in Brazil, including language communities with as few as 450 members and as many as 35,000.

Although actually, as Seibert pointed out, “We don’t do the translations. Our sister Bible Societies, recognizing the cost-effectiveness of our printing operation, give us the templates and we print them.”

So with the great supply and demand for Bibles in Brazil, it may just be that the Bible belt has moved south … all the way south of the equator to Brazil.

[Source: The Associated Press]