A Saint for Our Time and a Saint of Sudan
One of the shocking realities of our age is the fact that today more people are enslaved through human trafficking than there were during the entire 400 years of the transatlantic slave trade. Worldwide it is estimated that twenty seven million people are enslaved through trafficking. Their freedom has been taken away and their inherent human dignity denied.
St Bakhita is an example of endurance, determination and hope against adversity – an example of true freedom for those enslaved through trafficking or abusive relationships. She is a sign that trauma and the scars of abuse caused by enslavement can be healed and that a the dignity of a fully human life can be regained.
Pope John Paul II referred to her as “Our Universal Sister” – an example of faith and forgiveness to us all and a source of hope for those who are in any form of slavery or who need to find peace, forgiveness and reconciliation in their lives. A missionary described St Bakhita’s relevance today by saying – “Bakhita taught us the path of liberation. The path she followed and that lead her from slavery to freedom still has to be walked by so many people that are subject to a variety of forms of slavery.”
Bakhita is also the patron saint of her homeland Sudan and has become a symbol of faith and unity for Sudanese Christians. On the occasion of her beatification, Pope John Paul II praised her for “leaving us a message of reconciliation and evangelic forgiveness in a world so much divided and hurt by hatred and violence. She, that was the victim of the worst injuries of all times, namely slavery, herself declared:
‘If I was to meet those slave raiders that abducted me and those who tortured me, I’d kneel down to them to kiss their hands, because, if it had not been for them, I would not have become a Christian and religious woman’.”
Reconciliation and forgiveness are essential to the future of both Sudan and Southern Sudan. The divisions, mistrust and animosities that caused the South to become an independent state remain and, even within the new State of South Sudan ethnic and political differences are a cause of division. Many fear that these divisions may lead to a civil war. St Bakhita’s example of reconciliation and forgiveness was never more relevant. We hope and pray that her example may lead all Sudanese to peace and reconciliation .
Heavenly Father, Your Son Jesus Christ, through His suffering and death on the cross,
gave Himself as a gift of love for the reconciliation and salvation of all peoples.
He continues to express this love by giving us St. Josephine Bakhita.
She too offered herself through her suffering in slavery.
We humbly pray that through her intercession
You may save her brothers and sisters in Sudan from slavery and persecution.
May she obtain for her people and for the whole world the gift of justice and peace.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
Rt. Rev. Macram Max Gassis
Bishop of El-Obeid Diocese, Sudan