The recent conviction of a number of men from the North of Ireland for their part in the deaths of 39 Vietnamese migrants who were found suffocated in a truck in Essex back in October 2019, tragically reminds us of the terrible industry of human trafficking. The Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and the International Union of Superiors General has designated February 8 as an annual day of prayer and awareness against human trafficking.
February 8 is also the feast day of St. Josephine Bakhita, who was kidnapped as a child and sold into slavery in Sudan and Italy. Once Josephine was freed, she became a Canossian nun and dedicated her life to sharing her testament of deliverance from slavery and comforting the poor and suffering. She was declared a Saint in 2000.
On February 8, Catholics all over the world are encouraged to host or attend prayer services to create greater awareness about this phenomenon. Through prayer, we not only reflect on the experiences of those that have suffered through this affront to human dignity, but also comfort, strengthen, and help empower survivors.
Below is an interview with Bishop Denis Brennan that was recorded shortly after the tragedy in Essex as he speaks about the Church's response to human trafficking.
CLICK HERE TO LISTEN:
Heavenly Father, we thank you for the inspiring example of Saint Josephine Bakhita.
Saint Josephine Bakhita, you were enslaved as a child; you were bought and sold you were treated brutally. Intercede, we implore you, for all those who are trapped in trafficking and slavery. May their captors let them go, and may this evil be erased from the face of the earth. Saint Josephine Bakhita, once you regained your freedom, you did not let your sufferings define your life.
You chose a path of kindness and generosity. Help those blinded by greed and lust who trample the human rights and dignity of their brothers and sisters. Help them to break out of their hateful chains, to become fully human again, and to imitate your kindness and generosity.
Dear Saint Josephine Bakhita, your freedom drew you to Christ and his Church. Then God called you to religious life as a Canossian Sister. You practiced great charity, mercy and joyful gentleness in your vocation. Help us always to be like you, especially when we feel tempted to look away and not to help, to reject others or even to abuse them. Intercede for us so that Christ may fill our hearts with joy as he always filled yours.
O Loving God, pour your merciful light into our troubled world. Let it flood into the darkest shadows. Bring salvation to the innocents who suffer under sinful abuse. Bring conversion to the utterly lost souls who hold them captive and exploit them. Give us all the strength to grow in the true freedom of love for you, for each other and for our common home.