A slave who became a saint will be remembered by Catholics around the globe on February 8th as the Vatican launches its first “international day of prayer and awareness against human trafficking.”
On Sunday, dioceses and parishes around the world will celebrate the Feast of St. Josephine Bakhita. She endured brutal mistreatment in slavery in Sudan in the late 1800s. She was eventually freed and became a Canossian nun. St. Bakhita was canonized in a Mass in 2000 in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican.
“We find a shining advocate of genuine emancipation,” Pope John Paul II said at St. Bakhita’s canonization. “The history of her life inspires not passive acceptance but the firm resolve to work effectively to free girls and women from oppression and violence, and to return them to their dignity in the full exercise of their rights.”
Today, the Vatican is helping coordinate a multi-faith initiative to confront modern-day slavery. An agreement was signed by Catholic, Anglican, and Sunni Muslim representatives last year to create the Global Freedom Network.
“Human trafficking is an open wound on the body of contemporary society, a scourge upon the body of Christ,” says Pope Francis, “It is a crime against humanity.” One of the primary objectives of this weekend’s day of prayer is to increase awareness of the millions in slavery today.