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From slave to small business owner: one persecuted Christian’s stunning transformation

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

Hassan steps out of his mud-brick home in the early morning light, the acrid smoke from the brick kilns already heavy in the air. At 5:00 a.m., he begins another backbreaking day of molding and stacking the heavy clay bricks that have entrapped his family in debt slavery for generations.

This has been Hassan’s life since age 13, when his father took out a small loan from the brick kiln owner to pay for his children’s weddings and dowries—a longstanding cultural tradition in Pakistan. Within the South Asian nation’s exploitative kiln industry, such loans, though meager in amount, accrue impossible interest and can ensnare entire families in bonded labor. When Hassan’s father passed away, the heavy debt transferred to him. Now at 32, married with four young children of his own, Hassan has spent nearly two decades toiling to repay this debt that only seems to grow, no matter how many bricks he makes.

“There are many difficulties,” Hassan laments. “We have been in debt for 3 generations. Sometimes we had food … sometimes we didn’t have what we needed.”

Hassan and his family are among the estimated 3.5 million laborers, many of them Christians, entrapped in Pakistan’s 20,000 brick kilns. Though bonded labor was technically outlawed in 1992, the practice remains rampant. Kiln owners, empowered by the influence of wealth and the vulnerability of Pakistan’s marginalized Christian minority, act with impunity.

Pakistan is 96% Muslim, with Christians comprising less than 2% of the population. Treated as second-class citizens and often mired in poverty, minority Christians are overrepresented in the kiln workforce and in other exploitative industries. Persecution, both societal and government-sponsored, is widespread. Pakistan’s notorious blasphemy laws are wielded to settle personal scores and incite mob violence against Christians and other religious minorities.

For families like Hassan’s, the cycle of kiln work and debt is relentless and intergenerational, offering no hope of escape. He confesses, “My father had debt that was passed on to me that I have been paying off. If the debt was not paid, then this debt would have transferred to my child when he grew up.”

Uneducated and lacking resources, Hassan and his wife clung to their Christian faith while struggling to envision a different future for their children. “I never expected to be out of debt, because the debt was so much, we couldn’t even think of it,” Hassan admits. “We used to cry out, ‘Oh God, please take us out of this problem.'”

Then one day, amid the soot and sweat of the kilns, a glimmer of hope emerged. GCR arrived with life-altering news: a group of generous believers had raised funds to fully pay off Hassan’s debt, liberating the family from the clutches of bonded slavery! “When we got to know that our debt will be paid off, we were very happy,” Hassan recounts, his eyes gleaming. “With our debts paid off, we won’t have to work in the kilns. God has given us life!”

Along with debt relief, Hassan was gifted a donkey, grocery cart, and supplies to launch his own small business selling produce—empowering his family with sustainable income outside of brick making. “It’s a whole different feeling to have something of your own, earning for yourself,” Hassan beams. “Now we have a new business … we’ll do the work God has given us.”

Hassan now dares to dream of a brighter future including home ownership, free from the chains of slavery. “Today we are free, and we can earn money now. We won’t send our children to make bricks again,” he declares with resolve. “We’re Christians and we’re minorities … We just need God to be with us. Pray that God gives us our own home,” he requests.

How you can help

For Pakistani Christian families like Hassan’s, liberation from bonded labor is now within reach, thanks to the generosity of the global church. Through your support, GCR is working with our partners on the ground to break generational cycles of slavery, restore dignity, and ignite hope in marginalized communities. In a nation where following Christ often means enduring persecution and poverty, these acts of compassion shine as a beacon of God’s love and justice, empowering Hassan and others to stand firm in their faith.

With your support, we plan to pay off the debts of 50 oppressed Christian families—so they can live freely and shine the light of Christ in Pakistan.

Please join us in prayer for Hassan and other persecuted Christians in Pakistan’s brick kilns.

Lord, thank You for meeting Hassan in his need and supplying him with a way out of the misery of the brick kilns: through a small business enterprise. We pray that his grocery cart would be an abundant blessing to his family. May the business thrive, and be a testimony of Your faithful provision. We pray for other Christians like Hassan who dream of having a business while working under grueling and difficult conditions. Please hear their calls for freedom and justice, and deliver them from their burdensome debt in the kilns. 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.

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