By Bob Lunt
Brick-kiln workers in Pakistan are low-paid and many are Christians. If someone falls sick or a family crisis occurs, they have to take a loan from the Muslim kiln owner. Money is then deducted from their wages to pay the interest on the loan, and this can go on for years, even generations. The family remains bonded to their kiln; they cannot leave for another job and have to subsist on the reduced wages.
Barnabas Fund has now come to the rescue of nearly 300 families by
paying off their debts, which were typically from £1000 to £2000. And to help prevent them falling into debt again, Barnabas gives monthly food
parcels to the families so they can cover basic needs and put aside a little money for time of extra need. Simple training in budgeting, saving and managing is given.
The ultimate solution to enable a family to move into a stable economic position is to equip them with skills and education. For Christian brick-kiln families, Barnabas supports 16 schools, 5 literacy classes for adults and children, and a sewing centre.
Barnabas’ local Christian project partners have worked to develop good relationships with the Muslim kiln owners, and have encouraged the freed families to continue brick-making for a while so the owners don’t suddenly lose their experienced workforce – now respected as skilled workers, not despised as bonded labourers.
Inspired by the way they see Christians caring for each other, the Muslim kiln owners are responding with generosity too. One provides free transport for the Christian children to take them to and from the school they now attend each day. Another contacted Barnabas’ local partners to
highlight some Christian families who were in especially great need. “Please pay their debts”, he said. One was so moved by the pitiful state of a Christian widow with 5 young children that when she came with the money from Barnabas to pay her debt, he set her free without taking it.
Local pastors have always come weekly to lead worship and give Christian teaching; now seven owners have each provided a room for their workers to use for church services. The Moderator of the Church of Pakistan visited the Barnabas brick-kiln projects and remarked that they “have not only
restored their dignity but also changed their spiritual life. Sunday services are packed and each week they have two or three prayer meetings.”