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Freed Christian Pakistani brick-kiln families free other families from bonded labour!


10 March 2020

Christian families set free from the yoke of bonded labour in Pakistan’s brick-kilns because of the generosity of Barnabas Fund supporters are, in turn, releasing their brothers and sisters from the same burden of debt!

The 1,001 families whose lives have been transformed since Barnabas first stepped in to help in 2017 have since given enough money themselves to free another 86 families caught in the quagmire of debt.

James Iqbal with his son Aftab and daughter Aneela, shortly after their debt had been paid. His two priorities, after being freed, were to send the children to school for the first time in their lives and to donate to the revolving loan fund to free other Christian families

Many of the freed families have voluntarily and joyfully set aside a small portion of their wages, low as they are, to donate to a “revolving loan fund” which is used to repay the debts of other bonded Christian labourers. Having been desperately poor, helpless and dependent for so long, the freed families are thrilled to be in a position to help other believers.

Widower and father-of-two, James Iqbal, who was freed in Phase 1 of the project, back in 2017, said that he would “happily pay back my amount for the revolving fund. It will be my utmost priority to lend a hand in this noble cause in helping my other brothers and sisters. We had never imagined that we could be free.”

His contributions and those of other freed families, gathered together, are what have set free the extra 86 Christian families.

Khadim Ashraf, his wife Naseem and their sons Faisal, 12, and one-year-old Aman. Faisal is studying at a Barnabas-supported school

“The contribution from my brother workers is wonderful”

Hard working father-of-two Khadim Ashraf is newly-freed by the payment of his debt of 49,300 Pakistani rupees (£240; $315; €277). Overjoyed, he said, “The contribution from my brothers who are also brick-kiln workers is wonderful and I will try my best to do the same as my brothers have done.”

Brick-kiln workers are low paid and families live at survival level. If someone falls sick, or another 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 generations. The families are forced to try to subsist on reduced wages and, as long as the debt remains, they are bonded to the brick-kiln, unable to leave and get another job. It’s almost like slavery.​

Families freed to “enjoy an independent, loan-free life”

At 58, Younas Aziz is still working hard to support his wife and three children in a brick-kiln. He said he had been living under “the curse” of a debt of 59,350 Pakistani rupees (£290; $380; €335) for “a very long time”.

He added, “Sometimes, my curse increased and sometimes it decreased but I couldn’t get myself free of it fully. But, thanks to Barnabas Fund, who took this initiative of the voluntary revolving loan fund, my other brothers have paid off our loan.”

Younas and Fazilat Aziz with their son Yamhama, and daughters Sagita, 13, and Nighat, 11

Younas said he and his wife Fazilat, 39, are themselves now contributing to the revolving loan fund to ensure other Christian families can “enjoy an independent and loan-free life” as well. Their eldest son, 17-year-old Yamhama, has chosen to join his father in the brick-kiln, secure in the knowledge that he will no longer be liable for his father’s debt.

Barnabas Fund helps freed brick-kiln families to maintain their family budgets by providing lessons in finance management. We also support more than 30 primary schools, five adult literacy classes and a sewing centre, all specifically for Christian brick-kiln families. Monthly food parcels are given to families in particular need.

Barnabas Fund supporters have freed more than 1,001 Christian families by paying off their debts. With the 86 families freed by the donations of the 1,001 families, that makes 1,087 families set free. But thousands more are still struggling in bonded labour. If you would like to make a gift, please direct your donation to Pakistani Christian Brick-Kiln Workers Fund 41-1356.