Chicago’s North Park University theology professor Boaz Johnson grew up in the slums of New Delhi and remembers many friends from childhood who vanished overnight. It wasn’t until much later that he realized those children had been forced into labor in the carpet industry or sold into sexual slavery.
Earlier this month, the professor shared his experiences to help raise awareness about modern-day slavery in a forum hosted by the Center for Justice Ministries on the North Park campus.
“I remember this little guy by the name of Keshav who disappeared,” Johnson recalls. “We were told that he’d gone to a nice place.” But when Johnson reconnected with him at age 14, his hands were shriveled from carpet making. “When his fingers were no longer good for the fine work that needed to be done he was discarded,” Johnson explains. He notes that the only reason he was able to escape a similar fate was because his parents sent their children to a high-caste Hindu grammar school far away from the slum.
Another girl Johnson knew was taken away when she entered adolescence and sold into prostitution in the red-light district of New Delhi. “Her parents were poor—I think they may have been given $150 or something like that,” he says. “People will do anything to get out of their poverty.”
When Johnson and his wife moved to the Chicago area, they began an international church, where he would mention his experiences in his preaching. After hearing the stories, his congregation, which was composed of immigrants from various countries, began to recognize the signs of slavery in their own community. Soon, everyone was involved.
“Your neighbor’s house may be a holding place for slaves that are brought in from other countries,” Johnson says. “You have to keep your eyes open and be willing to get involved.”
One man, one story, one world of difference. Read more in the North Park University’s news.