A school to be named after Iqbal Masih, who made a global impact on child slavery

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A school to be built soon which will be named after the heroic Iqbal Masih- a champion of children’ right. Iqbal was gunned down on April 16, 1995 in Muridke, his hometown, as he had been raising voice against the prevalent child labor.Iqbal Masih was targeted for the reason that he was instrumental in freeing 3000 bonded labour children- majority of them being Christians. On the death 21st death anniversary of the laudable children’s rights activist, the British Pakistani Christian Association finalized a plan to purchase land in Kasur, and announced that the school will be named after Tim Iqbal Masih.

Children's rights activist Iqbal Masih

The British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA) plans to build the proposed school in Kasur. After spending time with bettered Christian families of both Iqbal Masih and Christian couple Shamma and Shehzad who were lynched over blasphemy accusations; BPCA realized that Christian children being deprived of often end up in bonded labor.

Also Read: EU Parliament criticizes Pakistan for not protecting its religious minorities

A thorny spate which has engulfed underprivileged children of rural areas, especially from Christian families is that of child slavery. Broke parents, mainly due to lack of finances and resources, are unable to afford school fees, and opt for child labor due to no other alternative. “Our school will be free of charge and aims to lift families out of poverty by educating their next generation. Many bonded laborers have already committed to sending their children to our school once the building is completed,” BPCA states.

“Our school will only cater for primary aged learning but will seek to link capable students to higher education establishments and our hope is over time to develop a secondary school in the vicinity of our initial project.”

While further speaking in this respect, BPCA chairman Watson Gill said: “We chose to name our school after Iqbal Masih as his short life has been an inspiration to our group. His commitment to save others and in so doing sacrificing his own life is a message to us all. Freedom from oppressors will always come at a cost and so often martyrs are forgotten. We wanted his desire to emancipate other victims to be remembered, that it might cement a place for acceptance of the beleaguered Christian minority in Pakistan and inspire generations of humanitarians yet to come.”

Iqbal Masih was born in 1983 in Muridke, a town in Punjab, Pakistan. His misery began at the age of four, when he was sold into bondage by his family. It so happened that poor lad’s family borrowed 600 rupees from a local employer who owned a carpet weaving business. Since the Christian family was unable to return the loan along with interest rate, Iqbal was required to work as a carpet weaver at the lenders’ until the debt was paid off.

During the years of his slavery, Iqbal used to rise before dawn and set off for the carpet waiving factory, as he later revealed, he and most of the other children were tightly bound with chains in order to prevent them from escaping. He told that he was made to toil, 12 hours a day, and seven days a week sparing only 30-minutes as a breather. For all his toiling, he was paid only 3 cents a day, nevertheless whatever he did, the loan just got bigger and bigger on the poor Christian family.

At the age of 10, he made up his mind to break away from the slavery. Despite the fact that, he was underdeveloped as a result of malnutrition and weakened by lack of exercise, still he and a few of his friends managed to run away. After fleeing, he approached a local police station and explained how the employer was beating the children and keeping them as slaves. Regrettably, the police officer was more willing to receive the “finder’s fee” for escaped child slaves and thus returned Iqbal to the factory’s owner. The tragic return was horrible then before, as the factory owner chained him to a carpet waiving machine and forced him to work often times subjecting him to physical abuse and starvation.

Two years later, he managed to reveal his misery to a brick layer union leader, named Ehsan Ullah Khan who made successful efforts to free Iqbal from bondage. The 12-year-old, Iqbal became a high up leader of the anti-slave movement in Pakistan. He attended the Bonded Labour Liberation Front (BLLF) School for former child slaves and quickly completed a four year education in only two years.

The BLLF started sending him to speak at conferences and demonstrations all over the country. As a result of his influencing story, soon Iqbal Masih began visiting other countries, in order to raise awareness of child slavery along with advocating for their freedom. Everywhere he went he inspired others to become involved in the mission to end child slavery.

“I would like to do what Abraham Lincoln did… I would like to do it in Pakistan” -Iqbal Masih