Thirteen Pakistani Christian families are now without their homes after local government officials demolished their homes when they refused to become bonded labourers in the local brick kiln factory.
The local government swooped in on the homes of the Christians in Samundri, Punjab province, in early December last year.
According to Barnabas Fund, the government officials were allegedly under pressure from the Muslim owners of the brick kiln factory where the Pakistani Christians were working. The brick kiln factory owners claimed that they are going to build a new hospital in the vacated space.
Bonded labour is a practice in Pakistan where the family or the person with a debt bonds himself or herself to the person, family or business that they owed money to, in order to pay off the debt through labour. Under this practice, the death of the debtor in question does not pay off the debt. Instead, the entire family will shoulder the debt and provide additional labour in order to settle the account, usually for several generations.
The debt is usually incurred when the person needs to borrow an immense amount of money. This in turn happens when there is a serious financial crisis in the family.
The Centre for Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement stated that brick kiln workers comprise the majority of the bonded labour population in Pakistan, while the Barnabas Fund added that 75 per cent of the bonded labourers in Pakistan are children.
The report also stated that most of these labourers are unable to pay off the debt because of their meager wages, and because of their plight, they may be assaulted sexually or sold off to other employers.
Pakistan Minorities Teachers Association President Anjum James Paul condemned the demolition of the Christian homes and told government officials to remember their obligation to provide shelter to all Pakistani citizens.