I thought this was a good example of the benefits and dangers of missions and things like micro-lending. Whenever cultural patterns change there are those–with or without reason–who will react negatively. This also illustrates something interesting regarding development. As much as we may decry child-labor in the west, we do so out of our own experiences of the industrial revolution, and without some form of aid from more industrialized nations to allow them to leap-frog certain levels of development, it’s no surrprise that child labor is a problem in other parts of the world. We only have to look at periods of our own history to see why. As one of my college professors put it, he doubted that any of us in the class room–no matter how capitalist–if transported back in time to the height of the industrial revolution, could resist the pull of socialism in the face of such abuse.

Nine years ago, World Vision staff discovered pervasive bonded child labor in the district of Gudiyatham in India: parents indenturing their children to moneylenders, in payment of debts as small as $20. The children rolled cigarettes, tanned hides, or made matches without freedom to go to school—and with little prospect of ever repaying loans made at ruinous interest rates.

Today, according to World Vision’s extensive house-to-house surveys, child labor in the Gudiyatham district has been reduced by more than 80 percent. Children out of school can be counted in the dozens, rather than the hundreds.

Jayakumar Christian oversees this and other projects that serve the poor. One would think that all Indians would welcome such efforts. Not quite.

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