The tenth International Day of Prayer and Awareness Against Human Trafficking takes place on 8 February, the feast of St Josephine Bakhita, the Sudanese nun who was enslaved as a girl.

St Josephine Bakhita was trafficked as a child in Sudan and is an international symbol freedom.

Saint Josephine Margaret Bakhita was born around 1869 in Sudan. She spent twelve years from the age of 8 being bought and sold as a slave. Her treatment as a slave varied from fair to cruel depending on her owners. Eventually, following a particularly cruel time of beatings and scars she was sold to a kinder master, Italian Vice Consul, Callisto Legani. He took her to Italy. He gave her away as a gift to a family who used her as a nanny. During this time she placed her in the custody of the Canossian Sisters in Venice. Whilst here she learnt about God and His love for her. 

The Sisters fought in the courts for Josephines freedom and the courts discovered that slavery had been outlawed in Sudan before Josephine had been kidnapped. Josephine was free to do with her life what she wished. She chose to remain with the sisters. 

Josephine spent the next forty years as a cook and doorkeeper, as well as telling her story in the neighbouring convents. When she spoke of her captors she said that she forgave them for had she not have been kidnapped, she would not have found God.

Her last words before she died on 8 February were, “Our Lady, Our Lady!”. She was canonised in the year 2000 by Pope JOHN PAUL II. 

The theme of the 10th Edition of the Day is continued from 2023, Journeying in Dignity, chosen by an international group of young people involved in the fight against trafficking. This year, the subtitle LISTEN, DREAM, ACT is added to reflect the “Call to Action” commitment made by the international representatives of young people gathered in Rome last year.

Speaking after the Angelus prayer on Sunday 4 February in St Peter’s Square, Pope Francis said,

“Even today, many brothers and sisters are deceived with false promises and then subjected to exploitation and abuse. Let us all join together to fight the dramatic global phenomenon of human trafficking,” 

Let us ask for the intercession of St Josephine Bakhita that we may have the courage to act against human trafficking and all exploitation:

St. Josephine Bakhita, you were sold into slavery as a childand endured untold hardship and suffering.

Once liberated from your physical enslavement, you found true redemption in your encounter with Christ and his Church.

O St. Bakhita, assist all those who are trapped in a state of slavery; Intercede with God on their behalf so that they will be released from their chains of captivity.

Those whom man enslaves, let God set free.

Provide comfort to survivors of slavery and let them look to you as an example of hope and faith.

Help all survivors find healing from their wounds.

We ask for your prayers and intercessions for those enslaved among us.

Amen.