February 8 marked the Feast of St. Josephine Bakhita and the first International Day of Prayer and Awareness Against Human Trafficking. The Daughters of Charity, along with many other communities of women religious, have taken a corporate stance against human trafficking. The text below comes from the Stop Trafficking Newsletter and the Vatican News Service
The day is intended to raise awareness and to encourage reflection on “the violence and injustice that affect” the numerous victims of trafficking, according to a Nov. 25 press release from the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers.
Trafficking victims “have no voice, do not count, and are no one. They are simply slaves,” the council said.
The observance also is designed to seek solutions and promote concrete action to stop trafficking.
The organizers underlined the need to ensure the rights, freedom and dignity of all trafficked people and to denounce the criminal organizations involved in human trafficking, as well as those who “use and abuse” the victims as “goods for pleasure and gain.”
On his flight back to Rome from Strasbourg, France, Nov. 25, Pope Francis told reporters “slavery is a reality inserted in the social fabric today, and has been for some time: slave labor, the trafficking of persons, the sale of children — it’s a drama. Let’s not close our eyes to this. Slavery is a reality today, the exploitation of persons,” he explained.
The new observance is being promoted for all dioceses, parishes and church groups by the council for migrants, the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and the international unions of superiors general of men’s and women’s religious orders.
Several other Catholic organizations are supporting the initiative, including the Pontifical Academy for Social Sciences, Caritas Internationalis, World Union of Catholic Women’s Organizations and Jesuit Refugee Service.
St. Josephine Bakhita was born in Sudan in 1869 and enslaved as a child. Eventually she was sold to an Italian diplomat and taken to Italy, where she was later brought to freedome through the help of the Canossian Daughters of Charity. Through their guidance, she learned about God and served him faithfully until her death in 1947.
In October 2000 Pope John Paul II canonized Bakhita, noting, “In St. Josephine Bakhita we find a shining advocate of genuine emancipation. The history of her life inspires not passive acceptance but the firm resolve to work effecrtively to free girls and women from oppression and violence, and to return them to their dignity in the full exercise of their rights”.
“Turn On a Light Against Human Trafficking” – from FAMVIN.org
U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Anti-Trafficking Program