Thursday, December 18, 2014

Modern-Day Slavery and Mission from Below

Let me introduce you to my friend Kumar. Kumar is not his real name. Posting his real name online might put him in jeopardy. I have known Kumar since he was a young man about to marry our househelper, Sita. He had moved into the Kathmandu Valley in search of a job and picked up construction skills working on building sites. It was a difficult life, getting up early every day to stand on street corners waiting to be hired by builders for a day's work, never knowing that he would have any income from one day to the next. Then the building industry collapsed and we helped Kumar learn to drive with the hope that he could become a taxi driver. That didn't work out so Kumar was back to square one and now with a wife and two sons to support things were not looking rosy.

One day he came to me with his 'contract' to work in the Gulf. It was a poorly photocopied sheet of paper with a dozen potential reasons why he might be sent home at any time at his own expense. He was to work on construction sites in the Gulf for two years in 50C (120F) heat, stay in a labour camp with scores of other workers. His passport would be taken away on arrival and returned only on completion of his commitment. His total pay for two years bonded labour: $3000, half of which would go to pay the manpower office that arranged his contract. I was incensed and tried to dissuade him from going but there was no other work to be had.

We heard bits and pieces of his life there during those years. Mainly we heard that he was still alive. When he returned, he came to visit us. "I survived," he told us. That was the main thing. Others didn't. One worker fainted at height, fell to the ground, broke his back, and was put on a flight back to Kathmandu, with no compensation. Nepal has no provision for paraplegics or disability benefits or free health care. Others died. There is a continual stream of coffins arriving on the tarmac of Tribhuvan International Airport to grieving relatives who have lost their only wage earner, or to no-one as no next of kin has been informed.

That is what modern day slavery looks like.

But there is a silver lining on this noxious cloud of gross injustice - mission from below. (I think it was Samuel Escobar who coined this expression.) Kumar loves the Lord Jesus. He also loves his fellow workers and so with others he started a church among them. Spiritual life welled up in the sands of that arid place. Now a whole lot of Nepalis arrive back in their home country new men. God does indeed move "in mysterious ways his wonders to perform" (William Cowper).

No comments:

Post a Comment