Slavery, Human Trafficking and St Bakhita

Josephine Bakhita was born in Darfur, Sudan in 1869. Kidnapped at the age of seven, she was sold and resold five times in the markets of El Obeid and Khartoum. She experienced all the humiliations, sufferings and deprivations of slavery.

In 1883, she was bought by Callisto Legnani, Italian consul in Khartoum. For the first time she was treated with care, rather than being beaten.

Two years later he took Bakhita to Italy and gave her to his friend Augusto Michieli. She became Nanny to Augusto’s daughter Mimmina.

While preparing to go to Sudan to run a Hotel on the Red Sea coast the Micheili’s left both Mimmina and Bakhita in the care of the Canossian Sisters at a convent in Venice. When the time came to travel Bakhita refused to go.

During the ensuing court case, the judge concluded that since slavery was illegal in Italy, she had actually been free since 1885. Bakhita, now twenty years old, found herself in control of her own destiny. She chose to remain with the Canossian Sisters.

She was baptized and confirmed in 1890, taking the name Josephine.

Pope John Paul II canonised St Bakhita on 1 October 2000.


A Saint for our Time 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 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.

The SMA Justice Office has prepared a very informative leaflet on St Bakhita, Slavery and Human trafficking… read it here.


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