Written by: Barnabas Fund 
Article source: JOY! Magazine

“Give thanks to the Lord , for he is good; his love endures forever.” – Psalm 118:29 NIV

“Our lives have totally changed. My mouth just does not stop praising God for the blessings and freedom He has given us.” These are the grateful words of just one of the Christian families released by Barnabas Fund from bonded labour in Pakistan’s brick-kilns – a number that now stands at a magnificent 1,001 families freed.

So many lives transformed
Thanks to our supporters’ generous donations, we have been able to transform the lives of so many families since we began helping them in September 2017. One thousand and one hardworking families have been freed from the oppression of bonded labour by paying their debts, which average 77,850 rupees (15,650 rand). And, with your help and God’s grace, we intend to continue to free many more.

Trapped in debt for generations – bonded labour is almost like slavery
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 wages and this can go on for years, even generations. The families have 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 is almost like slavery.

Basharat and his wife Saba could only see a future of “slavery and mud” for their children Sahil, 5, Saira, 3, and 18-month-old Sumera

“All we could see was slavery and mud”
Weighed down by loan repayments, Basharat and his wife Saba despaired of ever being able to pay for schooling for their three children. Without an education, there is little hope of escaping the cycle of illiteracy and poverty that trapped previous generations. “We wanted a successful future for them, but all we could see was slavery and mud,” said Basharat. “Now we are free and we are going to get our children educated. Thank you Barnabas for making this possible.”

Shehbaz and his wife Shina are also now optimistic for the future of their seven children, especially as the older ones are now all in school. Their health has improved because, like many of the freed families, they also receive a monthly food parcel from Barnabas. Shehbaz said, “I am very thankful. I now have respect; earlier I felt like a slave. My dignity has been revived.”

The couple’s older daughters, Rimsha, 13, and Elishba, 12, both attend one of five Barnabas-sponsored adult literacy classes. Barnabas also supports more than 30 schools and a sewing centre for brick-kiln families.

A cloud of worry, which kept him awake at night, has lifted from Irshad and his wife Shahnaz, pictured with their children Qasim, 12, Sohana, 10, Shahid, 7, Elishba, 5, and Anisha, 3

“I am very thankful. I now have respect; earlier I felt like a slave. My dignity has been revived.”

Irshad thanked God for lifting the cloud of worry and depression
Father-of-five Irshad became depressed and couldn’t sleep for worrying over the loan he had to take out when he and his wife became ill with a viral fever. Freed from his debt, Irshad said, “I thank God I am not in depression and sleep well. I am very thankful to my Lord and Barnabas and those people who supported us.”

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Date published: 11/02/2020
Feature image: Shehbaz and his wife Shina are very thankful for transforming their lives and those of their children Rimsha, 13, Elishba, 12, Zarish, 9, Muskan, 6, Silvia, 3, and twin baby sons, Daud and Nouman. Elishba was absent when the picture was taken. Shehbaz is particularly grateful to now enjoy the respect of others, instead of being despised for his bonded labourer status

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