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Freeing Christian brick-kiln families from bonded labour in Pakistan

“You are like Moses, leading us out of slavery.” These are the words of Jamila, a Christian bonded brick-kiln worker set free when Barnabas Fund paid off her debt. She is a member of one of more than 700 Christian families freed from bonded labour in Pakistan’s brick-kilns thanks to the generous donations of Barnabas supporters.

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Brick-kiln workers are low paid and families live just at survival level. If someone falls sick or another kind of family crisis occurs they have to take a loan from their employer, the brick-kiln owner. Interest on the loan is then deducted from their weekly wages and this can go on for years, even for generations, with no hope of being repaid.

They are forced to try to subsist on reduced wages and, as long as the debt remains, they are bonded to their brick-kiln, unable to leave and get another job. It is almost like slavery.

Devoted father released from “swamp” of poverty

Like thousands of Pakistani Christian brick-kiln workers, James had borrowed money from his employer for essential needs at a time of family crisis. James’ wife died when their children were very young and he works hard making bricks to earn money to support them.

Rizwan’s parents would have had to hand the debt on to Rizwan, and the cycle of poverty, illiteracy, debt and bondage would have continued for another generation.

“When my wife got sick I had to take a loan to look after her, for her check-ups, but eventually she died and I couldn’t pay back the amount in full,” said James. Then, when he and his children had times of sickness, James’ debt mounted. Each week, interest on the loan would be deducted from his wages. His situation was hopeless.

When at last he had the benefit of his full wages each month again, James was delighted that he could finally afford to send his ten-year old daughter, Naila, and son, Aftab, nine, to school for the first time in their lives.

Boy can now hope, not just dream

Thirteen-year-old Rizwan dreams of becoming a Gospel singer. “I would like to spread Jesus’ Name through my singing,” he said.

Rizwan’s father is a brick-kiln worker and that would have been Rizwan’s future too, because the family were bonded labourers, tied by a debt they owed the brick-kiln owner. There would have been no hope of any other job, let alone a music ministry. Rizwan’s parents would have had to hand the debt on to Rizwan, and the cycle of poverty, illiteracy, debt and bondage would have continued for another generation.

But thanks to Barnabas supporters, the debt has been paid and the family are free. Even though his family are still poor, Rizwan can now hope, not just dream, of serving God with his musical skills. “Please pray that I will become a Gospel singer,” he asked us.

A fresh future without fear

“My mouth just does not stop praising God for the blessings and freedom from debt He has given us,” says Irfan, another brick-kiln worker who can pay for the schooling of his children now that his debt has been paid. “We are now hopeful for our future. Now we are working with respect and without fear.”

You can help Christian brick-kiln workers

Despised, despairing and trapped, bonded brick-kiln workers feel like slaves. But thanks to the generosity of Barnabas Fund supporters hundreds of families have been set free by paying off their debts. You can help us to free the next 100 bonded brick-kiln families! Their debts range from $420 to $2,460

A gift of any amount will be used to help free a bonded brick-kiln family. We provide our supporters with a photo of the family their gift has helped to free, with their names and ages, if requested.

Visit barnabasfund.org/au/Brick-Kiln today. 

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