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06/20/2024 Pakistan (International Christian Concern) – When Christians are freed from the bondage of working in Pakistan’s brick kilns, they often don’t have the skills they need to support themselves — let alone their families — outside of the kilns. For many, brick kilns are the only life they’ve ever known.

Everything changes with the gift of an auto-rickshaw, and International Christian Concern (ICC) has given — and continues to give through its Community Development fund — new, dependable rickshaws to Christian families recently freed from the brick kilns.

“Driving a rickshaw is the most lucrative occupation for these people,” an ICC staff member said. “So many of them know nothing beyond the kilns and as a result, have little to no skills beyond making bricks, but everyone can drive a rickshaw. You don’t need a degree, you don’t need special training, you don’t even need a license. Everyone uses rickshaws in Pakistan to either transport themselves or goods. You can make your own hours, be flexible in where you work, and make a sustainable living depending on how many trips you take. For the first time, these people are in control of their lives. They decide when, where, and how much they work, not a landowner who abuses them and their family.”

THANKFUL RECIPIENTS

Rickshaws, tuk tuks, or “chingchi” as they’re often called in Pakistan, are the most common form of transportation in the South Asia. The small, colorful two- or three-wheeled vehicles are often decorated to reflect the personality of the driver and the local culture. The decorations are as much a personal expression as they are an attempt to catch the eye of potential customers.

In Pakistan, it is common to see rickshaws adorned with Islamic art. Bold Christians will decorate their rickshaws with a cross or a picture of Jesus Christ.

Christians in Pakistan are often called “churha,” a derogatory term reserved for low caste sanitation workers. If believers aren’t working in one of Pakistan’s brick kilns, they are often working another poorly paid job in the sanitation industry, including sewage workers or street sweepers.

Becoming a rickshaw driver isn’t always an easy financial move. Drivers often rent rickshaws, the cost of which cuts into their daily earnings. Those who receive their own rickshaw from ICC, however, can take home their full earnings and adequately provide their families with adequate food and education.

In late 2023, ICC distributed rickshaws to Christians and their families in Pakistan.

When Abdul received his new rickshaw, he couldn’t believe it.

“We are pleasantly surprised to have a new rickshaw,” he said. “It will turn our financial situation and fortune. We feel so blessed that our Christian brothers and sisters are worrying for our lives. God has transformed our lives while coming us to the stage where we are able to start the new business.”

After leaving the brick kiln, Wasim had long had a dream of owning his own rickshaw. When an ICC staff member handed him the keys to one, he smiled with gratitude.

“It’s like a dream coming true,” he said. “We were hopeless to think of getting out of the brick kiln work and especially starting a new business. May God help you the way you helped us.”

Ibrahim and his family are grateful for getting out of the brick kilns. They shared with ICC how they worked in bad conditions and were unable to work during Pakistan’s long rainy season. Now they can earn income year-round.

“It’s a super privilege to have rickshaw for our livelihood,” he said. “Now our family will earn good (income), and we will accelerate financially. May God bless you abundantly.”

A LASTING DIFFERENCE

Christians who receive rickshaws from ICC are not only able to provide for their families, but they’re also free from worrying about having to return to the brick kilns just to survive.

In their newfound freedom, previous beneficiaries of rickshaws have used the drive time to share the gospel with their passengers. Some do even more with their rickshaw income.

“We saw how they were profitable and poured into their community while earning a dependable and sustainable income for their family,” the ICC staff member said of other rickshaw recipients. “A welcome surprise was that these beneficiaries were evangelizing to their patrons and using some of their income to build new churches. This was not necessarily intended when the projects were approved but will now be an added factor in the proposal process.”

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