The International Day of Prayer and Awareness Against Human Trafficking was launched on February 8, 2015, by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and the International Union of Superiors General. Since its inception, this day has served as a global rallying cry to call for the end of human trafficking in all its forms.
This date was chosen because it is the feast day of St. Josephine Bakhita
, the patron saint of trafficking victims.
Leading the way
Ever since our current Holy Father assumed his role as pope, he has worked tirelessly to bring people living at the margins to the centre, and his approach to the victims of human trafficking has been no different. By pledging to fight the scourge of modern-day slavery alongside police and religious leaders from around the world, Pope Francis empowers and encourages Catholics around the world to be a part of the solution to this grave problem. At the 2014 International Conference on Combating Human Trafficking, he said
, “Human trafficking is an open wound on the body of contemporary society, a scourge upon the body of Christ. It is a crime against humanity.”
And at the same conference in 2019, he further stated
As pointed out by the Pastoral Orientations on Human Trafficking, “our times have witnessed a growth of individualism and egocentricity, attitudes that tend to regard others through a lens of cool utility, valuing them according to criteria of convenience and personal benefit”. It is essentially this tendency to commodify the other, which I have repeatedly denounced. Trafficking in persons is one of the most dramatic manifestations of this commodification. In its many forms, it constitutes “an open wound on the body of contemporary society”, a profound injury to the humanity of those who suffer it and to its perpetrators. Trafficking profoundly disfigures the humanity of the victim, offending his or her freedom and dignity. Yet at the same time, it dehumanizes those who carry it out, denying them access to “life in abundance”. Finally, trafficking seriously damages humanity as a whole, tearing apart the human family as well as the Body of Christ.
Action Catholics can take
This day calls for Catholics and all people of good will to reflect and pray for this practice to come to an end. Although awareness is a good place from which to begin, there are other opportunities available to those who want to get more involved. A great starting point is further education.
In September 2019, Salt + Light Media hosted a panel conversation entitled Unbound: A Conversation Against Human Trafficking
in which Sr. Nancy Brown, Gwendoline Allison, and Laura Lam spoke about the impact prostitution laws can have on human trafficking. You can watch it now on our website by clicking the link.
Another opportunity for education would be through an organization that is involved in both prayer and concrete action. Talitha Kum
is a worldwide network run by the International Union of Superiors General. It coordinates the anti-trafficking measures taken by religious sisters across the globe. This year, they are leading a 7-hour online marathon of prayer against human trafficking. This event, taking place in five different languages, can be streamed online.
This day is a great first step to get informed and, if you choose, to get involved.
On this day, I also recommend you take some time to pray for the intercession of St. Josephine Bakhita:
Prayer to St. Josephine Bakhita
St. Josephine Bakhita, you were sold into slavery as a child and endured untold hardship and suffering. Once liberated from your physical enslavement, you found true redemption in your encounter with Christ and his Church.
O St. Bakhita, assist all those who are trapped in a state of slavery; Intercede with God on their behalf so that they will be released from their chains of captivity. Those whom man enslaves, let God set free.
Provide comfort to survivors of slavery and let them look to you as an example of hope and faith. Help all survivors find healing from their wounds. We ask for your prayers and intercessions for those enslaved among us.
Image: Portrait of St. Josephine Bakhita (Source: Wikimedia Commons)