Child slave labor increasing in India, Christians need to engage

By May 26, 2009

India (MNN) — Millions of children in India are on the streets. Many are orphaned, or lost. Some are sent out by their parents to beg on the streets. Some parentless kids are forced into slave labor in exchange for food. Many of these kids become victims.

Does this sound familiar? Much of what I’ve described was depicted in the Academy Award-winning film “Slum Dog Millionaire.” Now that it’s out on DVD, it’s being recommended by President and Founder of Gospel for Asia, KP Yohannan.

“The movie portrays the plight, the suffering, of these children and the people living in the slums of Bombay. Keep in mind, the largest slum in the world is in India, and it’s in Bombay. Five million people live there, and we have missionaries working there.”

According to Yohannan, there are 100,000 parentless children on the streets of Bombay, and they draw the attention of street thugs. “These people recruit them. They maim them — cut their leg off, hands off, or blind them and turn them out as beggars on the streets. They beg all day long and bring the money back in the evening, and the next day they send them out again.”

Children with parents aren’t fairing much better. Yohannan says, “From age four and five these boys and girls are working like slaves making eight or nine cents for a whole days labor, or just getting a meal or a half a meal for what they do all day long.”

Gospel for Asia is doing what they can to rescue these children through their Bridge of Hope program. “We have 53,000 children in India, Nepal and Sri Lanka. We are giving them hope; every one of these kids hears about Jesus, and many of them come to know the Lord. These are the children of the Dalits–the untouchables. And my dream is to help at least 500,000 children,” Yohannan says.

He believes Christians have a responsibility to get involved. “We must care for these children who are in great suffering. Watching the movie, more than anything else will give Christians an understanding of what’s going. We need people to pray and help us to get to these kids before more children are abused and lose their lives.”

$28 a month can support a child in the Bridge of Hope program. “It is not just food and clothing and an orphanage and social work. No, you need to be more than that. You need Jesus and the Gospel and the love of Christ, and that’s what it takes in the end.”

However, the money isn’t given and then forgotten. Yohannan says, “We send every penny of that to the mission field for the children. The people who sponsor a child will get a profile of the child. Then, a couple of times a year, minimum, these children write letters to the sponsor. They become part of the family.”

If you would like to know more about sponsoring a Bridge of Hope child, click here.


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