The Catholic Church in Australia is vowing to tackle the scourge of modern slavery and human trafficking, as it prepares to celebrate the feast day of one-time slave, St Josephine Bakhita, on 8 February. The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference (ACBC) and Australian Catholic Religious Against the Trafficking of Humans (ACRATH) are encouraging parishes to mark the saint’s feast day.
“St Josephine Bakhita’s feast day is an opportunity to raise awareness about human trafficking,” said Bishop Greg O’Kelly SJ, chairman of the Bishops Conference for Justice, Ecology and Development.
“Pope Francis has called us to make a difference. Our steps may be small, but together we can achieve a great deal, especially when we work with others to stop human trafficking.”
ACBC has endorsed the Statement of Support for an Australian Modern Slavery Act, prepared by the Human Rights Commission Roundtable earlier in 2017.
There are more than 500 different human trafficking routes across many parts of the world, according to a 2016 United Nations report. It is estimated that millions of women, girls, men and boys are trafficked annually into domestic servitude, sexual exploitation, pornography, forced marriage and forced labour. Almost 80 per cent of detected victims of trafficking are women and girls.
St Josephine Bakhita, the patron saint for victims of slavery, was born in the west Sudanese region of Darfur in 1869. As a young girl, she was kidnapped and forced into slavery in both Sudan and Italy. Following her delivery from slavery, Josephine became a Canossian Sister and dedicated her life to sharing her story and to supporting the poor and suffering. She died on 8 February 1947 and was canonised in 2000.