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On the feast of St Josephine Bakhita on February 8,
bishops and religious leaders across Australia are
supporting the call from Pope Francis to end the
injustice of human trafficking against all people, in
The focus of Bakhita Day prayer services in the
Adelaide Archdiocese will be #kidstheyarenotslaves.
The bishops of Australia and religious leaders call for
a commitment to: prevention, victim protection, the
legal prosecution of perpetrators, and partnerships for
change. This commitment starts at home by raising
awareness and preventing exploitation of children in all
aspects of Australian society.
Bishop Terry Brady, Chairman of the Bishops
Commission for Pastoral Life said: “St Josephine
Bakhita’s feast day is an opportunity to raise
awareness about human trafficking involving children.
Pope Francis has called us to make a difference.
Sometimes our steps are small, but together we can
achieve a great deal especially when we work with
others to stop human trafficking.”
Sr Anne Tormey rsm, President of the Australian
Catholic Religious Against Trafficking in Humans
(ACRATH) said: “This day can be an opportunity to
learn about trafficking locally and globally, to advocate
for legislation and pray for the protection of children
who become victims of human trafficking.”
Patron saint for
victims of slavery
On February 8 the Church commemorates the life of
Saint Josephine Bakhita, a Canossian Sister who was
kidnapped and sold into slavery in Sudan.
Josephine Bakhita was born in 1869, in a small village
in the Darfur region of Sudan. She was kidnapped while
working in the fields with her family and subsequently
sold into slavery. Her captors asked for her name but she
was too terrified to remember so they named her Bakhita,
which means ‘fortunate’ in Arabic.
However, Bakhita was definitely not ‘fortunate’ during
the first years of her life. She was tortured by her various
owners who branded her, beat and cut her. In her
biography she noted one particularly terrifying moment
when one of her masters cut her 114 times and poured
salt in her wounds to ensure that the scars remained.
She bore her suffering valiantly though she did not know
Christ or the redemptive nature of suffering. She also had
a certain awe for the world and its creator.
“Seeing the sun, the moon and the stars, I said to myself:
'Who could be the Master of these beautiful things?' And
I felt a great desire to see Him, to know Him and to pay
After being sold five times, Bakhita was purchased by
Callisto Legnani, the Italian consul in Khartoum, the
capital of Sudan. Two years later, he took Bakhita to Italy
to work as a nanny for his colleague, Augusto Michieli.
He, in turn, sent Bakhita to accompany his daughter to a
school in Venice run by the Canossian Sisters.
Bakhita felt called to learn more about the Church, and
was baptised with the name ‘Josephine Margaret’. In the
meantime, Michieli wanted to take Josephine and his
daughter back to Sudan, but Josephine refused to return.
The disagreement escalated and was taken to the Italian
courts where it was ruled that Josephine could stay in
Italy because she was a free woman. Slavery was not
recognised in Italy and it had also been illegal in Sudan
since before Josephine had been born.
Josephine remained in Italy and decided to enter the
Canossians in 1893. She made her profession in 1896
and was sent to Northern Italy where she spent the rest
of her life living in her religious community engaged
in cooking, sewing and kindly welcoming visitors at
the door. She soon became well loved by the children
attending the Sisters’ school and the local citizens.
She once said, “Be good, love the Lord, pray for those
who do not know God, for what a great grace it is to
Josephine Bakhita died in 1947. She was beatified in
1992 and canonised in October 2000. She is honoured
as the patron saint of Sudan and of all people who have
been and are still being trafficked into slavery.
God of hope and peace, touch our hearts and energise our
ongoing efforts in abolishing this crime against humanity so
that every victim is freed and every survivor’s life rekindled.
You blessed St Josephine Bakhita of Sudan with mercy and
resilience. May her prayers comfort and strengthen the
women, men and children who are in search of freedom.
We ask for transformation of heart for those who inflict
pain, anguish and grief on our sisters and brothers.
Give them compassion, generosity and the courage to stand
in solidarity with others so that together we heal the hearts
and lives of all your people. Amen.
The procession at the African Catholic community Mass in St Francis Xavier’s Cathedral in 2016.
Small steps can have an impact
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