ASIA/PAKISTAN - 5 Christian families kidnapped and enslaved by employers have been released

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Lahore (Agenzia Fides) - Five Christian families kidnapped and enslaved by their Muslim employers, owners of brick kilns, have been released thanks to the intervention of the bailiff and the police. As reported to Fides by the NGO CLAAS (Centre for Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement), which provides free legal assistance to Pakistani Christians, the petition presented to the Lahore High Court, on behalf of the five Christian families had a successful conclusion. The families were confined by the owners of two brick kilns, in the two villages of Ahmed Nagar and Dera, in Punjab. The bailiff turned to the local police station, and after much persuasion, the police intervened and the Christians were released.
After the release, one of the families told their suffering: they were victims of forced labor and were treated as slaves for over 25 years. One of the women, Safia Bibi, began working at the furnace along with her husband, Anwar Masih, right after her wedding. She has nine children and when the children were old enough, they also started to work in the same place. They lived in a modest apartment in the factory complex, with no toilets. They often did not receive compensation and, if they tried to leave their job, they were beaten and tortured, left days without food. In 2013, Safia's husband died due to illness and weakness, and no doctor was called. Her children could not attend his funeral because they were forced to work. They were not allowed even to attend prayer meetings in church or celebrate Christmas and other Christian holidays.
Nasir Saeed, director of CLAAS, said in the note sent to Fides: "It is sad to see that even in the 21st century slavery continues to exist in Pakistan. The owners of furnaces are often wealthy and influential and are rarely prosecuted. The workers, often Christian work a life in slave-like conditions to pay their debts, that last generations. Sometimes they are sold from one furnace to another. The government is aware of the situation, but has never taken serious measures". (PA) (Agenzia Fides 15/05/2014)