Pope Francis has declared 8 February to be the world day of prayer and action against human trafficking. He chose this day because it is the feast day of St Josephine Bakhita, patron saint of Sudan and of victims of slavery.
You will find a link to download a prayer card and a poster for the Day of Prayer for the Victims of Human Trafficking here. To find out more about modern day slavery in the UK and abroad see the following websites, the Medaille Trust , Unseen and Unchosen. There is also information about what you can do to support their work.
St Josephine Bakhita was born in about 1869 in Darfur, Sudan, into a well-respected and reasonably prosperous family. Sometime between the age of seven to nine (probably 1877), she was kidnapped by Arab slave traders and spent more than twelve years (1877–1889) being bought and sold several times, then given away. She experienced the moral and physical humiliations associated with slavery. It is said that the trauma of her abduction caused her to forget her own name; she took one given to her by the slavers, bakhita, Arabic for lucky.
Her life changed in 1882 when she was bought for the Italian Consul. From then on, she received from her masters, kindness, respect, peace and joy. Josephine came to discover love in a profound way even though at first she was unable to name its source.
She was then entrusted to the Canossian Sisters of the Institute of the Catechumens in Venice. There Bakhita came to know about God whom, ‘she had experienced in her heart without knowing who He was’ since she was a child. She was received into the Catholic Church in 1890, joining the sisters and making final profession in 1896.
The next fifty years of her life were spent witnessing to God’s love through cooking, sewing, embroidery and attending to the door. Her constant smile won people’s hearts, as did her humility and simplicity.
As she grew older she experienced long, painful years of sickness; when asked how she was, she’d respond: ‘As the Master desires’. During her last days she relived the painful days of her slavery and more than once begged: ‘Please, loosen the chains… they are heavy!’
Surrounded by the sisters, she died on 8 February 1947. She was canonized in 2000.