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Saint Josephine Bakhita

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Saint Josephine Bakhita is a saint of the Catholic Church, but she was, as a young girl, a victim of human trafficking. Further in the post is a mini-biography of Saint Josephine.

In order to celebrate her feast day on 8 February, as well as remember all the other millions of victims of human trafficking, Global Health Promise, in conjunction with Our Mother’s House of Portland, OR is hosting a prayer service Tuesday evening February 8 in her honor for all victims and survivors of human trafficking.

If you don’t live in the Portland area, perhaps you’ll be interested in hosting your own service – this week or in the future. This is a great opportunity to build awareness as well as meet others in your community who are also interested in fighting against trafficking in persons.

St. Josephine Bakhita

Saint Josephine Bakhita (1869-1947) was beatified on 17 May 1992 and her feast day is 8 February, which is also the day of her death. She also became the first Sudan native to be canonized, when she was so honored in 2000. Her story is poignant to human trafficking as she herself was a slave. It is an interesting point that the slave owner initially feigned affection in order to convince others to force her to remain with the family. In the end, she finally became free.

The following is an excerpt from “All Saints, Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time”, by Robert Elsberg:

“Bakhita, (“the fortunate one”) was born in a village in the southern Sudan in 1869. When she was nine she was kidnapped and sold into slavery. Transferred from one master to another over a period of years, she experienced brutality in many forms. A turning point came in 1883 when she was sold to an Italian family who treated her with relative kindness and brought her back to Italy to work as a maid and nursemaid… It was there that Bakhita first heard the gospel and divined that it was God’s will that she be free…

“When… Bakhita’s mistress announced that they were returning to Sudan, Bakhita expressed her intention to remain. The Signora professed to be hurt. Hadn’t the always treated her as a member of the family? How coud she now be so ungrateful? As difficult as it was to resist these entreaties, Bakhita reained firm in her resolution: “I am sure the Lord gave me strength at that moment,” she later wrote, “because he wanted me for himself alone.”
“When pleading did not work the Signora tried another tack: she sued in court for the return of her “property.” But the superior of the Canossian Sisters and the cardinal of Venice intervened and came to her defense. It was only thus that Bakhita discovered what no one had bothered to inform her, namely, that slaver was illegal in Italy. She had been free all along.

“She was accepted into the novitiate of the congregation that had sheltered her and in 1896 she made her religious vows… It was said that she had a gift for making the ordinary extraordinary.

“In her last years she became ill [she lived to be 78] and could not leave her wheelchair. When a visiting bishop asked her what she did all day in her wheelchair, she replied, “What do I do? Exactly what you are doing – the will of God.”

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3 thoughts on “Saint Josephine Bakhita

  1. Thanks for sharing this interesting account of a Sudanese woman who was labor trafficked. What lead to her canonization, by the way, as the Catholic church requires miracles? I will remember her this coming Feb 8th.

  2. beautiful story Katherine. i absolutely loved her statement at the conclusion of the short biography…what do i do all day….exactly as you…the will of God. what a thought that if our desire is to be in the will of God, we are, no matter what we are doing. amazing! thank you for sharing!

  3. Hey Katherine…I haven’t been on your website for a while, there is so much to catch up on. You’ve sparked an awareness in me to read and listen to stories of human trafficking. I heard a great story on Redeemer Radio 1450 last week on the Teresa Tomeo show with Joan Lewis who is the EWTN’s Rome Bureau Chief. I can’t find her blog article now to forward it to you unfortunately. There was a conference at the Vatican to address human trafficking a week ago. She spoke about companies that were making changes in their operations to make sure slave labor was not being used and in their dealings with countries who had poor humanitarian records. Marriott was one of the companies I remember just because I try to stay with them whenever I travel. I have included an article that I did find while looking for the other articles. Keep up the good fight.

    PS…I saw your picture with Dick Hoyt. We listened to him and then met him at the Goofy Challenge. What a story.

    *********************************************
    Vatican conference highlights modern-day slavery epidemic
    By David Kerr
    Vatican City, May 20, 2011 / 03:23 pm (EWTN News/CNA)
    Share

    Ambassador Luis CdeBaca
    Many believe that slavery is an ancient problem that was banished in the 19th century. Not so, according to the Vatican and leading international officials.
    “Estimates of the problem of modern slavery today run as high as 27 million people,” Luis CdeBaca, a special advisor to U.S. President Barack Obama told a Vatican conference May 18.
    “In some parts of the world you’re talking about as much as 1 in 350 who are suffering due to debt bondage, involuntary servitude or forced prostitution. … Unfortunately, we’ve yet to find a country it does not touch,” he added.
    The event at the Vatican’s Palazzo della Cancelleria drew religious leaders, law makers and academics to discuss the problem of “modern slavery.” It was sponsored by the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See and Miami’s St. Thomas School of Law.
    Monsignor Franklyn Casale, president of St. Thomas, said that Catholicism’s global network of female religious is proving crucial in the fight against modern-day slavery.
    “They have been working with victims of human trafficking for a long, long time and they’re the ones that have been at the forefront of pushing others and getting something done legislatively in the corporate world and introducing it into the academic area as well,” he said.
    U.S. Congressman Chris Smith (R-N.J.) told the conference about U.S. anti-trafficking laws, which he said are rooted in Christian principles.
    “We are our own brothers and sisters keepers and nationality really shouldn’t get in the way of living up to Matthew 25 and protecting ‘the least of our brethren,’” he said.
    Rep. Smith’s “Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Law” first became U.S. law in 2000. It’s been renewed three times since. Amongst other things, it ranks countries according to their human rights record on trafficking and can impose non-humanitarian sanctions against offenders. Congressman Smith says it’s now time to get tough with one of the biggest offenders – China.
    “China is trafficking like never before,” he said. “It’s a direct consequence of their one-child-per-couple policy and its reliance on forced abortion and sex-selection abortion. China is missing over 100 million girls who have been systemically eliminated in pursuit of this one-child-per-couple policy.”
    Smith said that human traffickers are thriving on the resulting imbalance between men and women.
    “So in come the traffickers, the bride-sellers and they’re bringing in women from Asian countries and they’re reaching out even further to bring these women into China. It will only get worse.”
    Despite the significant obstacles, Ambassador Luis CdeBaca says the battle against modern-day slavery can and will be won.
    “Frankly if you go back 150 to 200 years, if (English abolitionist) William Wilberforce had given up hope or if Abraham Lincoln had given up hope, slavery would still be legal and a third of the world would still enslaved. They didn’t give up hope and we can’t either.”

    Read more: http://www.ewtnnews.com/catholic-news/Vatican.php?id=3244#ixzz1NBAQObIT

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