Working Together To Combat Human Trafficking

 Human Trafficking has become a worldwide activity and it is only in recent years that the general public are becoming aware of it. It is and has been for many years a growing industry for unscrupulous men and women to buy and sell people into slavery. The story of St. Josephine is an example of this trade. Her story, eventually, had a happy ending and is providing the world with a focus for bringing this scandalous activity to an end. Possibly she is the greatest advocate in heaven for enslaved people.

St Josephine Bakhita is the Sudanese Saint who at the age of nine was kidnapped and sold into slavery. She suffered terribly at the hands of her kidnappers so much so that she forgot her birth name. Her kidnappers gave her the name ‘Bakhita’ which means ‘Fortunate’.

At the age of 35 she was bought by the Italian Consul and was eventually brought to Italy where she was entrusted to the care of the Canossian Sisters in Venice. It was there that she came to know and experience God’s love. She became a Catholic in 1890 and made her final profession as a Canossian Sister in 1896. For the next fifty years she led a life of simplicity, prayer and service (especially as the doorkeeper in the convent) always showing kindness to everyone especially the children in the street. In her final years she suffered from sickness and the haunting memories of the beatings and floggings she received whilst in slavery. She died in 1947 and was canonized in October 2000.

Pope Francis while he was archbishop of Buenos Aires had been a strong supporter of local activists and initiatives fighting human trafficking and supporting rescued victims. He has entrusted two Vatican academies to study the problem of human trafficking, and sexual exploitation of women and men The Vatican working group on trafficking was organized by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences and the Vatican-based International Federation of Catholic Medical Associations. Bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, chancellor of the academies, said Pope Francis had specifically asked him to have the academies study the problem of new forms of slavery, including the trafficking of people and human organs.

Last year the Bishops of England and Wales declared February 8th, the feast day of Sr. Josephine Bakhita, as a Day of Prayer. The Bishop’s Conference states:

Human trafficking now ranks as the second most profitable worldwide criminal enterprise after the illegal arms trade. The practical response of the Church and its charities, led in the main by Women Religious, is to raise awareness of this horrendous crime and to provide help and support for the most vulnerable victims.

 This year The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Committee on Migration designated February 8 the feast of St. Josephine Bakhita as an annual day of prayer for survivors and victims of human trafficking.

The Lead Bishop for Migration, Bishop Patrick Lynch said:

"The Day of Prayer for the Victims of Trafficking is an opportunity to remember and pray for the thousands and thousands of victims of trafficking throughout the world,” 

For more information click on the links below:

Camilla Hunt