In 2008 the film Slumdog Millionaire opened the eyes of many to the reality of life that many young people in India live in. Dr. K. P. Yohannan, the founder and international director of Gospel for Asia, has seen this reality firsthand. In his book, No Longer a Slumdog, he shares his vision for Gospel for Asia (GFA), what they are doing, and stories of children reached by this ministry.
In this book, Yohannan educates the reader about the social context of many living in India. Many children living in poverty, in the lowest of the caste system, have stolen childhoods. This social system has been a way to control people, and even though it has been voted as illegal by Indian government, it is still in practice. Either they are sold into slavery, forced to work instead of receiving an education just so their parents can put food on the table, if for a day. Or, they are sold as sex slaves.
These are some of the ‘Dalits.’
Dalits referes to the oppressed, the marginalized. They are the ignored, underfed, and abused. These are the least of these whom Jesus said that when we minister to, we have ministered to him.
GFA has established Bridge of Hope centers all over India. One of the things that they do is ensure that children living in poverty receive education. While admitting that this and other issues they are faced with are issues of social justice and compassion, Yohannan admits that was uncomfortable for him at first.
Yohannan connects these social acts to his theology. He refers to the brutality, pain, abuse, and suffering that many in India experience as nothing short of sin. God hears the cries of the people, just as God heard the cries of the people in the desert, causing God to call forth Moses to lead the exodus. As such, the Bridge of Hope initiative provides children with “a holistic approach to their development, focusing on three main areas: the child’s physical, mental and spiritual growth.”
Yet, what Yohanna struggles in his writing, and perhaps in his own theology, is that feeding the hungry, educating the undereducated, and loving the unlovable is more important than handing out tracks. What is noticeably missing from this account is how GFA challenges the systems of injustice. The injustices that result in children living in extreme poverty to begin with. The GFA focus tends to be on giving them Jesus, giving them bread, giving them education, giving them water. All of which are good things, don’t get me wrong. But the at what point do we stop putting band-aids on the situation and start seeking a cure.
Not only does the book communicate the reality and the needs that GFA is seeking to meet, it calls the reader to respond to the question, “Now what?” There are moments in the book when it sounds more like a “help the children” ad on television than it does a book. Granted, that is one of the purposes of the book. Yohanna hopes that the reader will be motivated after reading the stories in the book and his accounts of what GFA does to sponsor a child.
The book provides links to its website throughout the book to learn, see, hear, more about the children whose stories it is telling. The book also provides helpful information in two appendixes in reference to the mission and context of GFA. If you would like your own free copy of No Longer a Slumdog, click here.
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book via FlyBy Promotions in exchange for a review, no compensation. All opinions are my own.