On 25 March, many will commemorate the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act. Yet in spite of this significant bicentennial, 12 million men, women and children throughout the world still suffer the cruelty of slavery.
Siloam Christian Ministries is helping to make freedom a reality by offering a safe haven to girls at risk in South India. The Millennium hostel for girls, at Camp Samathanam, was launched to provide young girls with a caring home environment and basic education. Currently a rented property accommodates over 60 girls.
Siloam director Richard Norton explains: ‘This is our way to help children avoid being trapped in slavery. The hostel looks after girls from disadvantaged backgrounds who would otherwise probably be led into prostitution or some kind of captive labour’.
Slavery exists in areas ranging from Eastern Europe to Africa, and is especially prevalent in India. Poor families can be forced into ‘debt slavery’ when faced with a crisis like a medical bill. They agree to allow their child to work for a pittance, but the unscrupulous person arranging this ’employment’ charges so much interest that their child becomes enslaved to a ‘sweat shop’. The average child is sold into this harsh bondage for approximately £20.
Also, young girls can be abducted or sold by adults into prostitution. Recent exposure by the BBC has not substantially altered their plight. Many victims succumb to AIDS; others also die prematurely due to violence, medical neglect or malnutrition.
In contrast, the young girls in the Millennium hostel enjoy security and hope for a better future. A new hostel is currently being built to increase the provision for up to a hundred girls (Contact www.siloam.org.uk or Tel. 01926 335037.)