Did you know that Saint Josephine Bakhita is considered the patron saint of human trafficking? Saint Josephine Bakhita was born in Sudan circa 1869. As a young child, she was kidnapped and sold into slavery. It was not until she was bought, and essentially rescued, by an Italian consul named Callisto Legnani that she was freed from the terrors of human trafficking.
While in Italy Saint Josephine Bakhita was introduced to Catholicism, where she quickly fell in love with the teachings of the Church and became a Catholic. She eventually became a Daughter of Charity – further displaying her devotion and love for the Church. Saint Josephine Bakhita gives hope to all victims of human trafficking, serving as an example of the possibility of overcoming the gruesome realities of human trafficking and taking a step closer to the comfort of God. After all, her chosen last name of Bakhita means “fortunate” – symbolizing how blessed Saint Josephine Bakhita was to have the God-given strength to overcome adversity.
Just like Saint Josephine Bakhita, it is vital for all victims of human trafficking to understand God’s love for them and His desire forthe protection of their lives. Human trafficking violates an essential theme of Catholic Social Teaching: “The Life and Dignity of the Human Person.” In short, this theme encompasses the idea that all human lives are sacred and all people have the right to life from conception through natural death. The violent practices of forced sexual and physical labor in many instances of human trafficking infringe on the rights all people have as expressed in Catholic Social Teaching.
In a letter presented at the International Conference on 21st Century Slavery on May 15, 2002, Pope John Paul II stated, “human trafficking…must be recognized as an intrinsic violation of human dignity and human rights.” A quintessential element of Respect Life issues is the presence of prayer. As Pope John Paul II calls us to reject all practices of human trafficking, it is important for us, as both Catholics and human beings, to pray. We must pray for the victims to gain the strength to survive, for the perpetrators to come to terms with the horrors they are instilling on the lives of innocent people, and for the eventual elimination of all human trafficking and modern day slavery.
Every February 8th, on the feast day of Saint Josephine Bakhita, the Catholic Church holds the International Day of Prayer and Awareness against Human Trafficking. On this day, Catholics all over the world are called to join together in prayer in order to advocate for the very serious issue of human trafficking. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Committee on Migration states that “through prayer, we not only reflect on the experiences of those that have suffered through this affront to human dignity, but also comfort, strengthen, and help empower survivors”
Please say this prayer for the victims of human trafficking, not only on February 8th, but every day. Together, our prayers can bring us closer to God and call upon those who have the power to help eliminate this terrible practice throughout the world:
A Prayer for the End of Human Trafficking
As shared by the Sisters of Charity of Saint Elizabeth, Convent Station, N.J.
God of freedom, beauty and truth
we believe that your deepest desire,
your most powerful energy,
is that all creation might know abundant life.
We raise our voices in anguished prayer
for our sisters and brothers,
women and girls, men and boys,
who are modern day slaves;
They are your beloved daughters and sons,
exploited sexually or forced to work
because of human violence and greed.
Fill us with your holy anger and your sacred passion
that those who are trafficked might know healing and justice;
that traffickers will come to repentance and conversion;
that all of us might live in such a way
that others are not made to pay the price
for our comfort and convenience.
Hasten the coming of the day when all people
and our precious Earth itself
will be treated, not as a commodity,
but as radiant images of your freedom, beauty and truth.
Amen. May it be so.
To read more about the life of Saint Josephine Bakhita, please visit her page on the Catholic Online website at http://www.catholic.org/saints. To learn more about the International Day of Prayer and Awareness against Human Trafficking, please visit the USCCB website at http://www.usccb.org/about/anti-trafficking-program/day-of-prayer.cfm.
Report trafficking concerns
Visit www.usccb.org/stopslavery to learn more about how to identify a potential victim and what you can do to help. You can report tips on potential cases of human trafficking to the National Human Trafficking Hotline 1-888-373-7888. The text message number is: HELP to BeFree (233733).