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In Pakistan, priests and religious combat child slavery

June 14, 2021

Over 12 million Pakistani children are victims of debt slavery, despite the practice’s illegality, the Vatican newspaper reported in the most prominent story in its June 12 edition.

The United Nations commemorates June 12 as the World Day Against Child Labour.

Victims of debt slavery are bound to work for a landowner or employer to pay off a debt. “But, since the interest rates are too high, the condition of slavery is handed down from father to son, in agriculture, in quarries, in furnaces or mines, on carpets, in glass factories or in match factories,” Father Emmanuel Parvez, a parish priest in Faisalabad, told L’Osservatore Romano.

Father Parvez, who has worked for years to redeem child slaves, recalled Iqbal Masih (1983-95), a Pakistani Christian boy who escaped from child slavery, spoke out against the practice, and was murdered.

The Vatican newspaper also highlighted the efforts of Father Abid Tanveer, Faisalabad’s vicar general, as well as the work of the Justice and Peace Commission of the Major Religious Superiors’ Leadership Conference.

“In the past seven years, the commission has succeeded in getting national identity cards for 20,000 brickmakers and social security cards for 400 bonded laborers,” UCA News recently reported. “It also secured freedom for some 1,000 workers by waiving their advance payments through court orders.”

Islam is the official religion of the South Asian nation of 234 million (map), the fifth most populous in the world. 96% of Pakistan’s people are Muslim, 2% are Christian, and 1% are Hindu.

 


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