School Named After Child Hero Shot at 12 Years of Age After Emancipating 3000 Children From Bonded Labour
by Wilson Chowdhry
16 years ago a young child of only 12 years old was shot dead after celebrating an Easter service in his home town of Muridke, Lahore, Pakistan. Tim Iqbal Masih is believed to have been shot for his role in freeing 3000 bonded Labour children, most of them Christians. On Saturday 16th April 2016 the British Pakistani agreed purchase of land in Kasur not far away from the home of Tim Iqbal Masih, that is to be named eponymously.
Our school is to be built in Kasur a town also outside the city of Lahore, near the location where a Christian couple Shama and Shahzad were murdered after being falsely accused of Blasphemy. Since that attack the British Pakistani Christian Association have been working with the community, rebuilding mud homes in brick, after they had been destroyed in the floods that consumed the country in 2015, caring for the children of Shama and Shahzad, and providing free medical examinations and treatments.
Our work with these communities brought to our attention the need for an educational facility that could provide an escape for many Children forced by circumstance to work with their parents. Families have confirmed that brick kiln operators do not enslave children to work with them till 13 years of age, but due to inability to afford childcare or school fees, families have opted for child labour due to no existing alternative. Our school will be free of charge and aims to lift families out of poverty by educating their next generation. Many Bonded Labour families have already committed to sending their children to our school once the building is completed. 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.
The family of Shama and Shahzad have agreed to open the school once our project comes to fruition. Shama and Shahzad and Tim Iqbal Masih had believed that education could free Pakistan’s Christian minority from their existing plight and hand to mouth survival. BPCA hopes that this school will be a trigger for further similar establishments that will develop new futures for the most deprived and abused communities eking out an existence in Pakistan. Tim Iqbal Masih, once said:
“Children should have pens in their hands not tools”
Chairman of the British Pakistani Christian Association, Wilson Chowdhry, said:
“We chose to name our school after Tim 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 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.”
Tim Iqbal Masih was 4 years old when his torturous story began. To pay for the wedding of his brother his mother took a small loan from a local businessman operating in the notorious carpet weaving factories in her local vicinity. Sadly when the repayment date two years later was missed Tim’s life of slavery began working for 14 hours a day, six days a week. Despite hours of employment he was never even close to paying of the debt he owed his masters, which started off as a loan of less then 50 pounds and grew to thousands of pounds, due to fines for late repayment, lateness and mistakes. Also the contracted his mother had signed with a thumb print required him to pay for the equipment and tools he used for his work, for the ‘apprenticeship’ he was provided with, for food and for burgeoning interest.
Malnourishment and abuse left him looking emaciated but God had blessed him with great intelligence. At 10 years old he escaped his captivity with some friends and went to local Police. Sadly the heartless officers of the law favoured the rishwat (bribes) from the carpet weaving mafia over justice and returned the escapees to their masters for the lucrative ‘finders fee’. This despite physical evidence of cuts, whippings and beatings that covered the bodies of the young children.
Tim was later helped by a local NGO who helped him gain a four year education in only two years, Tim is said to have been a prodigy. He began speaking out against the ongoing atrocities in bonded labour sweatshops across Pakistan desiring to free others from the same predicament. He would enter into factor and encourage children to leave and explaining that news laws meant that modern day slavery of this nature had been banned and that companies had been compensated by a removal of the debts owed to the government (despite this debt removal few businesses freed their bonded labourers). Tim eventually spoke in several countries across the world raising the profile of the pernicious modern day slavery of which 85% of victims were Christians in an attempt to eradicate child slavery in Pakistan. In 1994 he was awarded the Reebok Human Rights Award in Boston, two weeks later he spoke at a UN General assembly at only 12 years after an invite via UNICEF. He was due to start a degree in law at Brandeis University in Boston May 1995, but was shot dead weeks before the start of a promising future.
Tim Iqbal Masih, once said:
“I would like to do what Abraham Lincoln did… I would like to do it in Pakistan”
Below is an agreement signed on 16th April 2016 confirming sale of land for our school in Kasur.