This post is the second in a series about our church community’s recent trip to India in partnership with Justice Ventures International.

The first city our team visited was Chennai, India’s fourth-largest city with a population between eight and nine million people. As a board member with JVI, it was a great joy to be able to visit the staff in Chennai personally and see the office in which they work.

Slavery Today

While in Chennai, we had the incredible privilege of visiting a village of former bonded slaves who had been freed, in part, through the work of JVI. We might imagine slavery as history, something we read about in school from which we’ve moved on. The brutal reality, though, is that there are millions of people enslaved today. The short film Kavi explores what bonded slavery looks like today.

It’s incredibly difficult to imagine but, often, individuals and families are enslaved over debts as little as ten, fifty, or one hundred dollars. Slave owners might use physical abuse, threats to family, or deception as they force people to work in inhuman conditions for barely any wages. From the villagers, we heard about how children were forced to work from the age of six, and that pregnant women had to work until the day they gave birth and were coerced into resuming the next day.

You can read the story of Murugesan, a man who was once enslaved and was freed through JVI and a local justice venture partner in India.

Freedom + Redemption

When we arrived in the village, the children welcomed us with a cultural dance. We were honored to see the children smiling and dancing with a freedom that would not have been possible five or six years earlier. JVI’s work with local justice venture partners ensured that the families would be legally freed, but also established securely with adequate housing and access to decent work.

I was deeply moved by the beautiful story of redemption that had unfolded in this village: with the help of JVI and other partners, these villagers went from bonded slavery to owning, together, their own rice mill. Now, they work with local farmers to produce rice. We were able to visit their small, one-room mill where they work and see, firsthand, the justice, freedom, and restoration that had taken years to secure.