Sometimes on this life’s journey, we come face to face with darkness and evil.
Yesterday was my day. I saw slavery.
Here is what happened: A seemingly trustworthy man offered a job to the dad of an impoverished family. The man gave a cash advance to help move the dad and family to the new job in a brick kiln factory 500 hundred miles away. With the hope of a new life, the family boarded a train with funds from the borrowed cash advance and arrived at the kiln.
Upon arrival, however, the family finds a shack for a home and brutal work conditions. A typical day begins at 3:00am and ends well into the evening. Even their four year-old child is expected to put in a full day’s labor. They subsist on rice and salt. They discover that the long week of work did not decrease the debt from the original cash advance. The pay is meager — less than $5 for the week. For families already at the kiln, they discover that the owner increases the debt and justifies it by “charging rent” for the shack. They will never earn the ability to leave.
Violent actions by the kiln owners further compound the desperate situation. The family has no voice when the owners beat and sexually assault them. Freedom of movement is lost. The debt has become bonded labor. Only one member of the family is allowed to leave for weekly food shopping in the market. If he bolts, the owner hunts him down and returns him to the brick factory. He is beaten as an example to the rest of the laborers. Children do not receive the promised education. Medical care is denied. Years pass. Hope is lost.
Then a light in the darkness came. The family I spoke with yesterday was able to share their story because they are now free! The International Justice Mission, along with local officials, learned of the exploitation and raided the brick kiln. I have the privilege of being in India now with IJM to meet rescued victims and to learn more about these critical justice issues.
Ten years ago modern-day slave owners operated with impunity in India.
Now, however, they are looking over their shoulder, fearing accountability. They practice cover-up stories and build hidden rooms.
The IJM office in Bangalore seeks to secure justice by working with local officials to rescue victims, facilitate perpetrator accountability, provide aftercare services, and promote a functioning public justice system. Together they have brought hundreds of men, women, and children out of modern-day slavery. “Bonded labor — a violent and coercive form of human trafficking — is a rampant problem in southern India, often affecting the poorest and lowest castes. Those who commit bonded labor offenses do so with almost total impunity.”
Change continues to build. IJM comes alongside local Indian officials to not only free victims but also to prosecute perpetrators to the fullest extent of the law. Bonded labor is illegal and punishable with imprisonment and fines. Challenges to eliminating this form of slavery, however, are abundant. The facilities need to be located. The bonded labor victims need to be empowered to tell their story to the authorities. The justice system needs to act and hold perpetrators accountable. Rescued victims need education and vocational training.
IJM is doing all of this and more. The dedicated staff work tirelessly to bring victims out of slavery. I’ve heard their stories and rejoice in the rescues of people of all ages. I’ve visited with men and women in aftercare programs. They suffered horrid abuse but the healing has begun.
Our Part Against the Darkness
We can support the work of IJM through prayer. Please join me in praying that each day will bring progress as they seek justice for people burdened under bonded labor. Pray for rescue and the restoration of victims. Pray that the abusers to be held accountable.
Progress is happening in India. The silence is being broken.