Year for Consecrated Life
World Day of Prayer: Let My People Go
|St Josephine Bakhita.|
By Elizabeth Scully
Most of us think slavery is history. But did you know that a modern-day slave trade exists, including in Australia?
Human trafficking is the illegal trade in human beings for exploitation. In Australia, some examples of trafficking are forced labour and servitude. Industries that have been associated with human trafficking include construction, agriculture, hospitality, manufacturing and the sex industry.
It is difficult to determine the extent of the problem of human trafficking due to the criminal nature of the activity. Yet the US State Department estimated that between 27 million and 30 million women, men and children were enslaved worldwide in 2013.
During the Year of Consecrated Life, the Feast of St Josephine Bakhita on Sunday 8 February has been designated World Day of Prayer, Reflection and Action on Human Trafficking. Across the globe, Catholics will engage as one with this significant social justice issue.
On New Year’s Day 2015, Pope Francis addressed the problem of human trafficking in a moving World Day of Peace message: No longer slaves, but brothers and sisters.
“I invite everyone, in accordance with his or her specific role and responsibilities, to practice acts of fraternity towards those kept in a state of enslavement. Let us ask ourselves, as individuals and as communities, whether we feel challenged when, in our daily lives, we meet or deal with persons who could be victims of human trafficking, or when we are tempted to select items which may well have been produced by exploiting others,” Pope Francis said.
The World Day of Prayer, Reflection and Action on Human Trafficking will provide an opportunity for each of us to take up Pope Francis’ invitation to fraternity with victims of enslavement. Pope Francis also highlighted the leadership of women’s religious congregations on the issue.
Marist Sr Noelene Simmons SM is a tireless campaigner against human trafficking. Sr Noelene serves as NSW Project Officer for Australian Catholic Religious Against Trafficking in Humans (ACRATH).
On Sunday 8 February, Sr Noelene will address a Social Justice Afternoon hosted by Mary, Queen of the Family Parish at 2pm at St Michael’s Centre, 58 Orwell Street, Blacktown.
To register, please contact Sr Judith Lythall SM tel (02) 9622 1125 or email@example.com
ACRATH is active in promoting ethical consumerism as slavery (including child labour) taints the production of many common items. As we approach Easter, purchasing slavery-free chocolate is one way to stand with victims of human trafficking.
To support ACRATH, tel (03) 9645 5986 or visit: www.acrath.org.au
Who was St Josephine Bakita?
Saint Josephine Bakhita was born in 1869 in Darfur, Sudan. Kidnapped from her family as a child by slave traders, Josephine suffered much physical abuse from her masters.
Bakhita, meaning lucky, was the name given to her by her captors. Bakhita was sold to a succession of owners who exploited her labour and treated her with cruelty.
In 1882, Bakhita was purchased by the Italian Consular Agent in Sudan, later travelling to Italy. It was in Venice that Bakhita encountered the Canossian Daughters of Charity.
Bakhita was declared “legally free” in 1889. In 1890, she took the name Josephine and received the sacraments of Baptism, first Holy Communion and Confirmation.
Josephine Bakhita went on to enter the Canossian Noviciate, taking her vows in 1896. Sister Josephine was a much loved member of her community, regarded by many as a saint in her own lifetime.
Mother Josephine Bakhita died on 8 February 1947. She was beatified in 1992 by Pope John Paul II and canonised in 2000.Saint Josephine Bakhita’s lived experience of the injustice of slavery brings hope and calls us to action.