Praying today for victims and survivors of human trafficking
Today the Church marks St Josephine Bakhita’s feast day, and is an opportunity to pray especially for victims and survivors of human trafficking.
Bakhita’s story echoes that of our sisters and brothers who endure the tragedy of trafficking in our modern world.
She was born in Darfur in Sudan in 1869, and was so traumatised by her experiences as a young child that she forgot her own name. Those who trafficked her gave her the name Bakhita, or ‘fortunate one’ which is particularly ironic.
St Josephine was abducted at the age of nine. In some of her own words: “I was nine years old. I was walking in the fields with my friends, a bit far away from home. Two strangers appeared from behind a fence.
One said to my friend: ‘Let the small girls go into the forest to pick me some fruits. You continue walking, we’ll catch up with you soon.’ His plan was to fool my friend so he could kidnap me and she would not be there to tell.
"I did what I was told. Once we were in the forest, two men came from behind. One grabbed me vigorously. The other pulled out a knife and held it to my side. ‘If you cry, you’ll die! Follow us!’ I was terrified.”
Eventually, after being sold from slave-trader to slave-trader some six times, she received support from the Canossian Sisters and the Patriarch of Venice. Having witnessed and experienced the love and compassion of Christ, she asked to be baptised and took on the name “Josephine Margaret” for her baptism and confirmation in 1890.
Given her plight, she is recognised as the patron saint of victims and survivors of human trafficking.
The Archdiocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh’s Commission for Caritas, Justice and Peace is actively looking into opportunities to support the work of organisations who seek to tackle this crucial issue.
Today, let’s keep those who have endured the horrific experiences of trafficking, and those who still do, in our prayers.
For further information or resources, please contact Fr Basil Clark, Vicar Episcopal for Caritas, Justice and Peace at VECaritas@staned.org.uk or Callum Timms at Callum.Timms@staned.org.uk
'The start of a journey': Charities back Archdiocese in fight against modern slavery
Two leading charities are backing the Archdiocese of St Andrews & Edinburgh in the fight against modern slavery.
The Apostleship of the Sea and the Santa Marta Group say joining forces with the Archdiocese will help raise greater awareness of the scourge of human trafficking in Scotland, while also helping support victims.
Mick Duthie, Deputy Director of the Santa Marta Group, said: “We are excited to work with the Archdiocese of St Andrews & Edinburgh to tackle modern slavery. This is the start of the journey and we will be there to support them and offer advice.”
The Santa Marta Group is an alliance of international police chiefs and bishops working to eradicate human trafficking and slavery.
Mr Duthie, a former Detective Chief Superintendent with the Metropolitan Police, met with Archbishop Leo Cushley recently to advise on what steps can be taken.
He also spoke at a meeting at the Gillis Centre in Edinburgh (pictured below) featuring representatives from various groups including the National Justice and Peace Commission, Survivors of Human Trafficking in Scotland, along with the Apostleship of the Sea, a Catholic charity supporting seafarers from across the world.
Deacon Joseph O’Donnell, a senior regional port chaplain for the Apostleship of the Sea, said: “We are keen to engage with the Archdiocese of St Andrews & Edinburgh. It’s a good time to recognise the work that needs done and to join forces so we can help each other. There are different people with different skills around the table who are willing to work together.”
The move comes following Scottish religious leaders, including Archbishop Cushley, publicly committing this year to work with organisations to “develop effective approaches to recognising and tackling human trafficking in Scotland and supporting the survivors”.
The Archbishop has tasked Father Basil Clark, Vicar Episcopal for Caritas, Justice & Peace, to raise awareness among congregations across the Archdiocese as a first step.
Father Clark, who convened the meeting, said: “Pope Francis himself has called for a more unanimous and effective strategy to combat human trafficking. So receiving support and advice from leading organisations such as Santa Marta on how our Archdiocese can make a meaningful contribution is heartening.
“The stories of personal human suffering I’ve heard here in Scotland are harrowing - it has become a window into the heart of human darkness. Crimes that I thought distant are much closer to home than we think.”