St Josephine Bakhita 1869-1947
Born in Durfur, Sudan. At about 7 years old she was kidnapped by Arab slave traders and forced to walk barefoot about 600 miles. She was given the name Bakhita “Lucky” by her captors. She was sold and resold five times. She was treated very badly by some of her owners. Of her fourth owner she said, “During all the years I stayed in that house, I do not recall a day, that passed without some wound or other. When a wound from the whip began to heal, other blows would pour down on me”.
Her last owner took her to Italy and lodged her temporarily in a convent. When the owner wanted to collect her the nuns protected her and a court ruled that her slave status was illegal. She remained with the nuns and was baptised – later becoming a nun herself. She once said, “If I were to meet those who kidnapped me, and even those who tortured me, I would kneel and kiss their hands. For, if these things had not happened, I would not have been a Christian and a religious today”. She is venerated as a modern African saint, and as a statement against the brutal history of slavery. Pope John Paul II said, ”Rejoice, all of Africa! Bakhita has come back to you. The daughter of Sudan sold into slavery as a living piece of merchandise and yet still free. Free with the freedom of the saints.”
Her feast day is 8th February.
Some people have promoted Bakhita as a possible patron saint for the victims of human trafficking, the modern-day form of slavery that includes forced labour and many adults and children of both sexes being forced into prostitution.
St Josephine Bahkita, pray for us!