On 8 February we celebrate the feast of Saint Josephine Bakhita. This year, Pope Francis has designated this date as the International Day of Prayer and Awareness against Human Trafficking. It is only right that the feast of St Bakhita, the first Sudanese Saint, should be the day when we remember those who are victims of human trafficking, as she herself was.
Bahkita was born in Darfur, Sudan in 1869, kidnapped as a child, sold into slavery in Sudan. At the age of seven she was sold and re-sold five times in the markets of El Obeid and Khar-toum.
Bought by the Italian consul to Khartoum in 1883, she was later taken to Italy where she was engaged as a Nanny, and lived in a convent in Venice with her charge while her master was abroad. A court declared her free as slavery was illegal in Italy, after which she was baptised, confirmed and entered religious life.
She spent her life sharing her experience of slavery, comforting the poor and suffering and was known for her calmness, gentleness and good humour. She was canonised on 1 October 2000.