Justice for bonded labourers

Bonded Labour at a brick kiln
Bonded Labour at a brick kiln in India

Bonded labour is the most common method of enslaving people around the world.  A person becomes a bonded labourer when their labour is demanded to repay a loan. The person is then trapped into working for very little or no pay, often for seven days a week. Interest makes it impossible to pay the loan off and often debts are passed on to next generation.

They are forced to work to repay debts their employer says they owe, and they are not allowed to work for anyone else. Various forms of force are used to make sure they stay. In many cases they are kept under surveillance, sometimes under lock and key. Poverty and the threats of violence force many bonded labourers to stay with their masters, since they would not otherwise be able to eat or have a place to sleep.

Today the International Labour Organisation estimates a minimum 11.7 million people are in forced labour in the Asia-Pacific region, the majority of these are in debt bondage.

Bonded labour has existed for hundreds of years. It was used to trap labourers into working on plantations in Africa and the Caribbean – after the abolition of the Transatlantic Slave Trade.

In South Asia it is rooted in the caste system and predominately affects Dalits (the lowest caste called Untouchables) and still flourishes in agriculture, brick kilns, mills and factories. In the Punjab region of India hundreds of thousands of men, women and children are forced to work as bonded labourers in quarries and brick kilns where they receive little or no pay in return for a loan typically used for survival.

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God loves justice

inequality and justiceThere can be no doubt that God loves justice. In the Bible justice is often linked with righteousness (right living) and mercy. I am not talking here about justice in the context of judgement of wrong-doers. I am talking about Justice in the way we treat our fellow-men who may be poor, disadvantaged or weak.

Justice and Righteousness

“But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!” (Amos 5:24)

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Compassion or Justice

love and justice 2As we look at the world around us, we see so much suffering, and so much injustice. There are a number of ways we can react to this suffering. We can get involved in a charity which seeks to address the problem. Alternatively we may choose to join an action group which seeks to resolve the problem directly through campaigning for justice. Which is the best way? Sometimes we hear someone say that we need to get to the root the problem not just apply sticking plasters. Someone else will say that this is all very well, but until the problem is eliminated, we must meet the needs through compassion and love. I the rest of this blog I will say that we need both approaches. Continue reading “Compassion or Justice”

Nelson Mandala’s words live on

English: Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg, Gaute...

The world is saddened by the death of Nelson Mandela. I could say so much about this man, but the best tribute I can bring is to remember some of the words he spoke and then to act on them. He was only a man, and like us all his life is limited, but his words live on …


No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite. (1994 from his autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom)

Here are some more of the words he spoke which we should remember and take to heart: …… Continue reading “Nelson Mandala’s words live on”

Remember with humility and sorrow

We are approaching the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War 1 – a terrible and unnecessary conflict involving 30 different countries. It was a war dreamt up by the elite in Britain, Germany, France, Russia and other countries, but a war fought between ordinary people who died in their millions. We must remember those who died, but with a deep shame. We dare not ‘celebrate’ the war or glorify or glamourise it in any way.

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Can I really love my enemies?

love-your-enemiesJesus certainly knew how to be controversial. He taught that love knows no bounds. We are not only to love God, our creator, but to love our neighbours as ourselves. But it doesn’t stop there. We are even to love our enemies, people who treat us badly and certainly do not love us. This is probably one of the hardest things to do and challenges us all. Continue reading “Can I really love my enemies?”

Back to the Crossroads

At the cross-roads!

Why am I writing this blog? I hope it is because the heart of God has touched my heart and I write with a passion which comes from Him. Or is it just one big ego-trip? Am I just motivated by a desire to make myself heard in a world with so many confusing voices?

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Paul and Race, Class and Gender

Neither Male nor Female.jpgThere is neither Jew nor Greek,
slave nor free,
male nor female,
for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

(Galatians 3:28 NIV)

Paul is often criticised for being pro-slavery and anti-women. But we need to distinguish between the truths he set out and how it was applied to the culture of the day. As a prophet he saw how things ought to be but he was a child of his culture and although what he said was revolutionary in its day, the full implications of what he said would need to wait for progressive revelation in future generations.

Take for instance the matter of slavery. It would take another 1800 years before men like Wilberforce came along and pointed out that slavery was morally and ethically indefensible. People have always considered that their country was superior and even in much of the 20th century, racism was considered normal. Likewise the world is still adjusting to the idea that men and women are created equal.

In this article we will look further into these words of Paul and seek to apply them to the 21st century.

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