On the Feast Day of St Bakhita let us pray for the victims of human trafficking.
St Bakhita, born in Sudan around 1869, was taken into slavery as a child. She died in 1947, her body scarred from the dreadful wounds she received from whipping. The name Bakhita, given to her by her slave master, means ‘lucky one.’ After years of horrific abuse, she did become the ‘lucky one.’ She was bought by someone who treated her kindly and finally she found peace and freedom with the Cannosian sisters. She took her vows in 1896. Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical letter Spe Salvi (In Hope We Were Saved) relates her entire life story as an outstanding example of Christian hope.
Slavery wasn’t officially abolished in Sudan until 1924. Even today Sudan remains one of the countries with the greatest incidence of modern slavery in the world. We pray that there may be hope for all those enslaved – an estimated 40 million worldwide, 136,000 in the UK.
Two young women, rescued only a few weeks after they had been forced into a brothel in Preston in 2015, were lucky. For most, there is no escape and the misery these women endure was captured in DNA found in fingernail fragments where a woman had tried to scratch her way through a locked door in Belfast. The DNA matched a woman subsequently rescued in London.
In 2019 39 Vietnamese people died in a container. We do not know the life they were bound for but Caritas Anti-Trafficking worked with a Vietnamese trafficked woman a few years ago, who said, “They come from same province where we are from. These bring back bad memories. I couldn’t breathe when I was in the Lorry. Twenty-three of us would have died if the police came five minutes late. Thank God, we’re still alive. I have been through all so I feel so bad thinking about them. We pray for them every night, and thank God saved us. Thank you for your prayer and your thoughts so much. This reminds us how lucky we are to be here, to live in the UK.” They too were the lucky ones.
We have many stories, all different, all witnessing to the worst excesses of human behaviou r.
When Benedict says “in hope we were saved” he refers to the hope for fulfillment in Christ’s promise but St Bakhita was saved from slavery first and again in the Christianity she learned from the Cannosian sisters. Let us pray for the hope that one day all slaves will be saved but much more than that, let us see modern slavery as a barometer or litmus test of how the much the world and the Church measure up to a striving for the Common Good. And let us pray that we have the strength to acknowledge our complicity in the root of it all – structural sin and the globalisation of indifference.