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Feast Day of St Bakhita takes on added meaning in fight against slavery and human trafficking

“The life of St Josephine Bakhita reminds us of the assault to the dignity, and of the suffering endured by every trafficked person."
Sr Anne Tormey rsm

The Archdiocese of Brisbane will join with other dioceses, ACRATH and the Pope in a world day of prayer, reflection and action against human trafficking this Sunday 8 February.

The observance coincides with the Feast day of St Josephine Bakhita, an African woman sold into 19th century slavery who outlived her tormentors and flourished in life again after joining the Canossian Sisters.

That slavery and human-trafficking still exist in the 21st century is almost as appalling as it is incomprehensible.

An estimated 27 million women, men and children are detained against their will and forced to suffer in conditions of exploitation and slavery.

The Pope made the issue of slavery an integral part of his World Day of Peace message on the first day of the new year, a document entitled “No longer slaves, but brothers and sisters.”

Encouraged by the Vatican Secretary of State to continue spreading the message, the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference (ACBC) and Australian Catholic Religious Against Trafficking in Humans (ACRATH) have disseminated resources and the Vatican devised special prayer for the occasion.

ACRATH President, Sr Anne Tormey rsm, said the church and religious institutes in Australia stood ready to join with people of goodwill from the Anglican, Orthodox, Jewish, Islamic, Buddhist and Hindu faiths in lending their voice to the initiative.

“We need to eradicate the terrible scourge of modern slavery in all its forms”, she said.

“The life of St Josephine Bakhita reminds us of the assault to the dignity, and of the suffering endured by every trafficked person.’

“Our prayer on this day becomes one of lamentation for the millions of women, children and men trafficked across the globe for human slavery.

“Let us see that this day can be an opportunity to learn about trafficking globally and locally, to pray for the victims of human trafficking and for an end to slavery, to commit to buying fair trade products where possible and to advocating for legislation to protect victims of human trafficking,” she said.

Speaking on behalf of the ACBC, Bishop Eugene Hurley, Chairman of the Bishops Commission for Pastoral Life reflected that a real conversion and awareness of the degrading practice was necessary.

“It is imperative that we begin a journey of personal change when we mark the 8 February,” Bishop Hurley said.

“Human trafficking exists in Australia and on this planet because we allow it to exist.

“Let us together, commit to eradicate this affront to our humanity.”

 

PRAYER FOR February 8, 2015

 

“O God, when we hear of children and adults deceived and taken to unknown places for purposes of sexual exploitation, forced labour, and organ ‘harvesting’, our hearts are saddened and our spirits angry that their dignity and rights are ignored through threats, lies, and force.

We cry out against the evil practice of this modern slavery, and pray with St. Bakhita for it to end.

Give us wisdom and courage to reach out and stand with those whose bodies, hearts and spirits have been so wounded, so that together we may make real your promises to fill these sisters and brothers with a love that is tender and good.

Send the exploiters away empty-handed to be converted from this wickedness, and help us all to claim the freedom that is your gift to your children. Amen”.

 

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