Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Watch: a persecuted Christian widow’s journey to freedom in Pakistan’s brick kilns

July 1, 2024 by Abigail Hart in Persecuted Christians in Pakistan

GCR visits suffering Christian families in Pakistan’s brick kilns

The heat of the kiln radiates outward as workers fuel the furnace. Two men, covered in dark soot from shoveling coal, wave to us as we walk by. The GCR team is on its way to meet Maryam, a Christian mother and wife—now widowed—who has spent the last twenty years of her life doing something unexpected: making bricks.

When we arrive at Maryam’s house, she and her daughters warmly welcome us into their modest home. We sit outside their bedrooms in a small and humble courtyard. Bricks surround us—a reminder of the suffering Maryam has endured as a bonded slave in one of Pakistan’s 20,000 brick kilns.



The enslaved Christian widow welcomes us into the modest shelter that she calls home.



Since her husband passed away, Maryam must single-handedly provide for her three young daughters and a teenaged son.

Maryam’s story

When Maryam’s husband fell ill, they took out a loan of just $862 for his medical care. Little did they know that this financial “agreement” with the brick kiln industry would steal their freedom for years. “We agreed to the loan, believing that we would work off our debt in the brick kilns for one year, and then we’d be able to return to our homes,” Maryam recalls. But one year turned to twenty as high interest rates and garnished wages made it impossible to repay the loan.

Persecuted and marginalized, Pakistan’s minority Christians represent less than 2% of the South Asian nation’s population. Believers who are poor, like Maryam’s family, often receive the brunt of discrimination. These impoverished Christ followers make up a large percentage of the brick kiln laborers; the kiln system is meant to entrap them, and once a family accepts a loan, it is extremely difficult for them to pay it off. Then the loans travel from generation to generation, ensnaring the children of these laborers in the same cycle of indebtedness as their parents.

Maryam and her husband raised their four children in the brick kilns. As they grew older, they were left with no choice but to abandon their education and join their parents as fellow brick makers. Their daughter Shazia, only twelve years old, now makes hundreds of bricks a day. “She used to go to school, but now she makes bricks … since her father passed away,” Maryam shares tearfully. “This is how we make our living.”



After her father passed away, the 12-year-old had to quit school. Today, she helps her mother make bricks. Child labor is not uncommon in the brick kilns.

Maryam becomes a persecuted Christian widow

Their struggles multiplied when, after years of breathing in dust and mud, Maryam’s husband passed away from severe asthma this past July. After a lifetime together, Maryam still can hardly speak of him without being overcome with emotion. The loss left her not only full of grief, but also vulnerable to the harassment and abuse so prevalent in the kilns. There is an unspoken danger here: many young girls and women are sexually abused—and not having a father present for protection makes the risk even higher for Maryam and her daughters. “I now have to rely on my son for a living and for protection. The girls have to come with me to work. It’s the only way to keep my daughters safe,” she explains.

Amidst these challenges, Maryam’s faith in Christ has remained unwavering. Weekly, she and her family attend small house church fellowships with other Christians in the brick kilns where they worship, hear Scripture, and pray together. “My trust in Jesus has helped console me. We trust Him.”



Maryam's spouse recently died of severe asthma after years of exposure to dust, clay, coal and soot in the brick kilns. Many bonded laborers suffer from chronic respiratory and skin ailments while lacking access to medical care.

Maryam finds freedom through the Body of Christ

There is hope for Maryam’s family and other Christian laborers in the brick kilns. Thanks to generous donors like you, GCR was able to fully pay off Maryam’s family’s debt. This debt, only $862, had trapped her family in bondage for decades.

We were able to present an official check to the brick kiln owner and see the ledger that cleared Maryam’s debt for good. Then we returned to her home to have a quiet celebration with chocolate cake in the courtyard. The sun was beginning to fade as Maryam smiled and passed cake around to a small group of believers who gathered with us. Then Shazia, her daughter, took a bite, smiled, and laid her head on her mother’s as if to say, God heard our prayers.



Global Christian Relief and our partners present a check to the owners of the brick kiln to release Maryam from years of snowballing debt and bonded labor.



Maryam and her daughters are overcome with joy, knowing that they are now free from bonded labor. They enjoy a slice of chocolate cake to celebrate the news.

Ensuring a prosperous future

Maryam is no longer living under the burden of being a bonded slave. She will now receive proper wages for her labor, and her children have the freedom to pursue their dreams. When asked how her life will be affected by this newfound freedom, Maryam says, “Now we can save a little money. I will be able to save and invest for our daughters’ future marriages. Our health will benefit as well, and it will help our kids … they won’t have to sacrifice their dreams of the future.”

To help ensure these dreams can come true, GCR provided Maryam and her son with supplies for their own small business, so they can generate a stable, alternative source of income. They received a produce cart and donkey, and they are now able to add to the family’s earnings by selling fruits and vegetables in nearby villages via their mobile grocery store. Samha, Maryam’s oldest daughter, hopes to use her skills and sewing machine to open a family-run tailor shop, a dream that is now within reach.



Maryam's son takes the reins of the family's brand-new produce cart and donkey. The small business supplies were provided by GCR, our partners and our generous donors.

Maryam continues to thank us and all who made her debt relief possible. She emphasizes, “When we prayed before, we mainly asked God for our daily bread, and felt grateful to Him for just feeding us. We used to ask that we would be free from making bricks, but now he has given this to us. We are so blessed. We would ask that God would help us pay our loans so our children can be free. Now, he has given us enough. The children are now free, and they can earn a living.”

How you can help

In partnership with a local organization in Pakistan, GCR has paid the debts of 14 Christian families trapped in bonded slavery, including Maryam’s. This year, we aim to pay the debts for 50 more Christian families—with the help of supporters like you. Each of these families will receive an income-generation project to teach them how to support their families independently of the kilns. In addition to debt relief, we provide skills training, financial training, consistent medical assistance, and children’s education opportunities in several brick kilns across Pakistan.

There are thousands of Christians still entrapped in this vicious system of bonded labor. Your support is instrumental in breaking the chains of modern-day slavery and offering lives of dignity and hope to these laborers in Pakistan. Together, let’s show our brothers and sisters in the brick kilns that they are not forgotten or alone.

Let’s help free them so they can continue to be a light for Christ across Pakistan.

Please join us in prayer for Maryam and other persecuted Christian widows in Pakistan’s brick kilns.

Lord, thank You for rescuing Maryam and her children from the life sentence of bonded slavery in Pakistan. You are a miracle working God! Please make a way for other hardworking Christian families to receive their freedom in the coming months. You are worthy to be praised for hearing the cries of Your children, and responding in their depths of their despair. Amen.

About the author
Abigail Hart serves on the communications team at Global Christian Relief, where she shares stories of Christian persecution around the world. Read the latest Christian persecution stories on our website and learn more at


Global Christian Relief and our partners are on the ground in Pakistan’s brick kilns, providing aid to 50 deserving Christian families trapped in modern-day slavery. Your gift today can meet their everyday needs and provide a pathway to freedom through debt relief, small business stipends, financial coaching, skills training, food kits, mobile medical care and more. Please give generously now.

Donate Now