2015 Dubai – Slavery is Thriving. What can we do?

111 dubaiA story from the HBO news magazine Vice came across my YouTube feed today. Reported by BBC’s Ben Anderson, it was called Slaves of Dubai. I recently re-posted a piece about the Slaves of Kuwait, and this topic has stirred a real passion in me. How on earth can we be looking at 2015 where U.S. gulf allies still allow and condone slavery, and it doesn’t unleash the fury of the free world. Social media should not rest; Twitter needs an anti-slavery hashtag, fellow WordPress bloggers should be writing a re-blogging about this topic until slave holders are shamed into change.

Fraudulently Promised Jobs and a Better Life
Fraudulently Promised Jobs and a Better Life

In the report linked below, you’ll see a recurring theme of victimizing the world’s impoverished, ignorant and desperate people-groups. Anderson’s piece highlights how slave brokers in Bangladesh entice their victims with the promise of work and sending money home from jobs in the beautiful UAE. The brokers charge their victims around $4500 USD for a “visa fee” that includes travel to the UAE, which the victims are indebted to pay back before their pay of $450 per month can be paid back. Once on Emirati soil, their condition becomes much worse.

Slaves living on top of each other.
Slaves living on top of each other.

When the victims arrive in UAE, the Bangladeshi contract is torn up, their passports are confiscated, and they are forced into new contracts that only pay $180 – $230 USD per month. They are forced to work at least 12-hours per day, 6-days per week, in sweltering conditions. Though regulations require the laborers not work when it’s over 122°F/50°C, the builders fraudulently insist it never gets that hot. When the grueling work-day is over, the cruelty doesn’t end.

Welcome to your bedroom kitchen living room
Welcome to your bedroom kitchen living room

The Dubai slaves are forced into company “housing” that is unfit for human use. Utilities are rare, and human waste pools on the ground around the tiny shack-cities. Workers are monitored and strong-armed by company thugs. Many go hungry for days, sleeping 8 or more to a room, often in the same room used for their living room and kitchen, and even in bathrooms. Bathrooms can have 1 or to water spigots for 40+ workers in a unit, and water usually does not run into the lines. Living conditions are on the bottom tier of a 3rd world prison camp.

What the UAE would like you to believe
What the UAE would like you to believe

But this is a shining city on a hill for the Sunni Muslim people of the Persian Gulf. Building islands in terraformed shapes, skyscrapers, luxury water-works and all of the trappings of Arab wealth does not free the citizens of UAE from responsibility for Bangladeshi hell-on-earth. But, as a Christian blogger, what can I do about it? I can share the story with everyone willing to read it. If it is a story that has connected with you, perhaps it will ignite a passion in you, too.

We have an internet that shares the story at light speed. Maybe you will re-

What can we do to stop slavery? #endslavery
What can we do to #endslavery

post this in your social media feed. Maybe you will research and write your own story. If you are a Christian, I hope that this is knowledge that will inspire you to do something. I’d love to hear your suggestions, commitments or comments.

At the end of this post, there are two more stories about slavery that occurs around the world. The U.S. has about 60,000 slaves, predominantly working as sex slaves and in agriculture. India has over 14-million – imagine the entire state of Pennsylvania enslaved. God’s word tells us how we should feel about slaves and slavery. We’ve been called for a heart-change about it for 2000 years.

The Apostle Paul befriended Onesimus, a slave belonging to Philemon, a leader of the church in Colossi, while Paul was in imprisoned in Rome:

Philemon 1:10-16 (NLT)
10 I appeal to you to show kindness to my child, Onesimus. I became his father in the faith while here in prison.
11 Onesimus hasn’t been of much use to you in the past, but now he is very useful to both of us.
12 I am sending him back to you, and with him comes my own heart.
13 I wanted to keep him here with me while I am in these chains for preaching the Good News, and he would have helped me on your behalf.
14 But I didn’t want to do anything without your consent. I wanted you to help because you were willing, not because you were forced.
15 It seems Onesimus ran away for a little while so that you could have him back forever.
16 He is no longer like a slave to you. He is more than a slave, for he is a beloved brother, especially to me. Now he will mean much more to you, both as a man and as a brother in the Lord.

Proverbs 22:16 (NLT)
16 A person who gets ahead by oppressing the poor or by showering gifts on the rich will end in poverty.

Link to the Vice story, Slaves of Dubai: Slaves of Dubai (HBO)

Washington Post story on modern-day slavery: Slavery – U.S. and Around the World – WaPo

The Atlantic magazine article: Slavery Still Exists

111 gulf_migrant_workers slider3 dubaimap

Welcome to your bedroom kitchen living room
Welcome to your bedroom kitchen living room

cheap-dubai-holidays 1380216660_dubai_11



  1. David, this story has been on my mind a bit as I was also thinking about an article I recently read about Pakistanis trapped in forced labor.

    Fr. the article – they were able to raise 2 million usd and at an exchange rate of roughly 100:1, if everything goes to the campaigner, that would be about 200 million dollars.
    When I read this, I thought in addition to using some of the $ to rescue those currently enslaved, some $ could be set aside and used for giving loans to these people, small businesses could be established where the borrower could work to pay off the loan, ensuring they do not go to the block manufacturers and entrap themselves; and a small amount could go toward public awareness.

    Tying this back to the issue of slavery in Dubai, it seems as though awareness may be one of the better methods of deterring people from leaving their home country only to end up as slaves in a corrupt system.

    In the days of Nimrod when they were building the tower of Babel, it would take 1 whole year for a brick to reach the top. If one brick fell and broke, everyone cried; however if a worker fell and died, no one cared.
    The similarities are the same, and has to be as the human condition has not and cannot change without the transforming work of the Holy Spirit of God to give a human being a new heart/spirit.
    Sadly, this is the solution which is the least attractive and also the least likely to be embraced.

    Blessings and thanks for highlighting this issue.

    • Hi John,
      I’ve more clearly stated to purpose of the site in a new group of pages that appear on the site header. Though I’m still working on some of the technical pieces, you’ll come to understand why your comments will sometimes be moderated. I encourage you to read the Purpose and Critics Corner. Thanks for commenting. I should have the technical issues resolved on Critics Corner so you will soon be able to comment there.

      • John, if you read the purpose of the blog, you will find it says

        “My purpose is to advance the cause of Christ with articles that promote a biblical worldview.”

        Regarding what it isn’t about, I clearly state:

        “I’m not running a debate site for anti-Christian rhetoric.”

        There are many people who respond to this site for encouragement, biblical instruction and other conversation of a biblical nature. There are very many people in the world that share a biblical worldview, and this site will remain open for this reading public.

        Don’t feel slighted. There is a forum for you. Its just not in the interest of this site to advance a God/Christian/Bible -hating agenda. You’re welcome to comment, but you’ll need to comment where it is appropriate.

        Thanks a bunch!

      • I assure you, I don’t feel in the least bit slighted, but thanks for the thought. You are merely exhibiting a common evangelical trait: censorship to protect a version of reality which you know cannot stand directed, but polite scrutiny.

        As I said, if you want only an echo-chamber, then set your blog to “Private.” If, however, you’d like to participate in the evidence-based world, then don’t censor polite comments.

        It’s really that simple. Your choice.

      • 1) Patronizing comment
        2) Smear of all evangelicals
        3) Moderating is not censoring. It is keeping a conversation on topic. You are completely welcome to post your comment in the Critics Corner.
        4) I rarely moderate public comments. If a comment is deliberately or redundantly hate against God/Christianity/the Bible it gets moderated. You get moderated for 2 big reasons: (1) you regularly express your hatred of God/Christians/the Bible, and (2) you vent your hatred frequently.

        5) My choice is to do what I set out to do. How you want to frame your perception and apply twisted logic is your choice.

        I’ll ask you to comment further in the Critics Corner if you would like to comment on this article. It is about slavery in 2015 Dubai and what Christians can do to oppose it.

      • Why would Christians oppose slavery when Jesus didn’t denounce it, Paul encouraged it, and your god is so clearly in favour of it?

        That was my question to you, was it not?

        Is it a question you can answer?

        Apparently not.

        So be it.

      • (Retyped the best I could. The WordPress computer scrambled a lot of the text on my first response)

        Thanks for restating the question. Let’s break this down:

        “Jesus didn’t denounce it”

        I’m sure you can see the flaws in logic that says if someone doesn’t specifically speak to an issue of our question 2000 years after the fact, that they have somehow affirmed what they did not denounce. The untold millions of issues at play in 1st Century life would be addressed according to God’s priorities at the time. Slavery then was much different than we have seen in the last 500-years. People of all professions would sell themselves into slavery for financial reasons, voluntarily. Still, some who traveled through the Middle-East did engage in trading involuntary slaves.

        The Bible, in particular the Apostle Paul, does speak to people who engage in the slave trade. It is absurd to read the following passage and them make the statement that Paul encouraged slavery:

        1 Timothy 1:9-10 (NLT)
        9 For the law was not intended for people who do what is right. It is for people who are lawless and rebellious, who are ungodly and sinful, who consider nothing sacred and defile what is holy, who kill their father or mother or commit other murders. or are slave traders…

        Slaves, by today’s definition, are chattel. 2000-years ago, they were commonplace. Now, look at how Paul speaks to a slave-owning leader in the Colossi church regarding the slave, Onesimus:

        Philemon 1:16-18 (NLT)
        16 He is no longer like a slave to you. He is more than a slave, for he is a beloved brother, especially to me. Now he will mean much more to you, both as a man and as a brother in the Lord.
        17 So if you consider me your partner, welcome him as you would welcome me.
        18 If he has wronged you in any way or owes you anything, charge it to me.

        These passages clearly show Paul did not encourage slavery. He overtly condemned the slave trade, and admonished Christian leaders to look at slaves as a brother.

        It is really not our place to question what Jesus did or didn’t say. God is sovereign. He is in control and makes up His priorities. We don’t get to dictate terms to Him.

        As prideful human beings, cloaked in sinful flesh, it is hard for us to accept that we are not in control. It is a sign of spiritual immaturity when we refuse to accept God for who He is and try to put Him in a box.

  2. What you write is interesting and food for thought. However, we need to look in our own backyard. Women and children have been held slaves by cults such as Quiverfull. They have been treated as second and third-class humans by the Gothardesque Fundamentalist ideology. Before we look across the pond, we need to free children from the abusive blanket-training that police and authorities have not addressed. Yes. The blanket training that Quiverfull people do to their children. They place the infant on a blanket. If the INFANT moves they are beaten into submission. If that isn’t some form of slavery, I dunno what else is. Women are treated as slaves because they have to be at the beck and call of their men. Honestly. I enjoy your posts because they bring forth great debate. But really–charity begins at home.

    • I’m not familiar with either of the the U.S. groups you mentioned, Catherine. I agree that we have plenty to do in our own back yard, too. You’ll notice toward the end of the article I mentioned the 60,000 slaves in the U.S. working in the sex trade and in agriculture. Of course, in America, slavery is illegal and those practicing it would most likely be criminally charged if found out by authorities.

  3. While I agree slavery must be abolished wherever it is found, I’m curious how you got to this enlightened position from this one:

    However, you may purchase male or female slaves from among the foreigners who live among you. You may also purchase the children of such resident foreigners, including those who have been born in your land. You may treat them as your property, passing them on to your children as a permanent inheritance. You may treat your slaves like this, but the people of Israel, your relatives, must never be treated this way. (Leviticus 25:44-46 NLT)

    When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she will not be freed at the end of six years as the men are. If she does not please the man who bought her, he may allow her to be bought back again. But he is not allowed to sell her to foreigners, since he is the one who broke the contract with her. And if the slave girl’s owner arranges for her to marry his son, he may no longer treat her as a slave girl, but he must treat her as his daughter. If he himself marries her and then takes another wife, he may not reduce her food or clothing or fail to sleep with her as his wife. If he fails in any of these three ways, she may leave as a free woman without making any payment. (Exodus 21:7-11 NLT)

    When a man strikes his male or female slave with a rod so hard that the slave dies under his hand, he shall be punished. If, however, the slave survives for a day or two, he is not to be punished, since the slave is his own property. (Exodus 21:20-21 NAB)

    Slaves, obey your earthly masters with deep respect and fear. Serve them sincerely as you would serve Christ. (Ephesians 6:5 NLT)

    Christians who are slaves should give their masters full respect so that the name of God and his teaching will not be shamed. If your master is a Christian, that is no excuse for being disrespectful. You should work all the harder because you are helping another believer by your efforts. Teach these truths, Timothy, and encourage everyone to obey them. (1 Timothy 6:1-2 NLT)

    • John, it is old news that most of the ancient world, including Judaism, practiced slavery, and it was a practice alive in Jesus’ time. I won’t bother with Mosaic Law; you can ask a rabbi. As for Ephesians and 1 Timothy, both passages speak to how the slave should comport themselves. I recommend you re-read the passage from Philemon that is contained in the article.

      • So, your god had a change of mind concerning slavery? That doesn’t actually ring true, though, David. Jesus certainly didn’t denounce slavery, and Paul is quite clearly endorsing it.

        So, my curiosity remains… How did you arrive at the idea that slavery is ethically wrong when your god, Jesus, and Paul all support it?

      • Let me start by thanking you for your 158th comment on my blog. You are #1 by a long-shot. While I appreciate your interest, I have to admit that your process is an obvious template… useful, because you comment on a lot of Christian blogs. But, it usually goes Hyperbolic Question, Hyperbolic assertion, Purposely antagonistic restatement of my question, Hyperbolic Twist, and then at some point you get tired or I end up having to moderate you.

        So lets do this exercise, one more time: God is immutable… He doesn’t change his mind.. if you think He does, you just misunderstand. No, Jesus did not denounce slavery. It’s a big fish, but He had bigger fish to fry. As for how I arrived at a position that slavery is wrong… really? And, there is your trademark absurd hyperbolic twist, saying God, Jesus and Paul support slavery… Weak, John. Very Very weak.

      • Jesus didn’t denounce slavery, Paul instructed slaves on how they should behave, and you god, of course, is 100% pro-slavery. I believe the question is more than valid. It’s intriguing that you cannot answer it.

        God is immutable… He doesn’t change his mind

        That’s interesting. So your god still supports slavery, then? Why then, David, don’t you?

      • I spend 5-hours every Friday evening working in a ministry. Sorry to be late getting back to you. I’m actually kind of happy you pressed me on this question. Your pressing is solid evidence that testifies to your passion about the God question. You’ve written an atheistic book, but that wasn’t enough. You scour WordPress looking for opportunities to challenge Christians on what they blog about. Still, you stay on your quest to satisfy your need to know what this God thing is all about. In Christian circles, we call that the conviction of the Holy Spirit. I experienced it, and you obviously do as well. You may deny it, but there is a mountain of evidence that would refute such a denial. Your conviction, to my mind, is a good thing.

        The response post question, were I to answer it, would be a waste of our time. It just represents a game you think you’re playing, and I seriously doubt you have a heartfelt hunger to have such a silly, contrived fabrication of an issue answered. Especially, knowing that I actually do invest real time and effort on genuine questions. I’d rather invest the time on something real, and worthwhile.

        Let’s ask each other real questions that matter. I’ll start. Who inspires you in historic and modern atheism? Why do they inspire you?
        I look forward to knowing. Thanks.

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