February 8, 2019 has been designated by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace as the annual day of prayer and awareness against human trafficking. Pope Francis has called human trafficking a crime against humanity and has urged everyone to unite efforts to eliminate the crime and to free the victims. He states that human trafficking is getting more aggressive, threatening not only individuals but the foundational values of our society.
Feb. 8 is the feast day of an outstanding woman who was a convert, a religious woman, a saint and a victim of trafficking. At the very young age of seven, St. Josephine Bakhita was kidnapped and sold into slavery in Darfur, Sudan. She was brutalized by her kidnappers who called her Bakhita which means ‘fortunate’. Resold several times, she was eventually bought by an Italian diplomat who sent her to Italy to work as a servant for a daughter of a family friend who was studying with the Daughters of Charity of Canossa. It was there that Bakhita came to know God and was baptized in 1890, receiving the name Josephine.
When her family decided to return to Africa, Josephine wanted to remain in Italy since slavery was abolished there. In Italy, she grew in her faith and became a Canossian Sister. For the next 50 years, she dedicated her life to sharing her story of freedom from slavery and comforting the poor until her death in 1947. She was declared a Saint in 2000.
Situation in Canada
Human trafficking is happening in Canada and is destroying the lives of our women and children today. Unfortunately, human trafficking has not been consigned to history.
Now is a critical moment for education and advocacy throughout our country with the general election in the fall of 2019. Our Canadian people need to know that the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act (PCEPA) must be strengthened and enforced throughout Canada. Any movement to legalize prostitution or decriminalize the buying would only further marginalize our Indigenous women and youth, as well as increase prostitution and human trafficking in our country.
In the spirit of St. Josephine Bakhita and Pope Francis you are invited to join with others in promoting the Buying Sex Is A Crime social media campaign. We urge all dioceses, diocesan groups, organizations and other interest groups to collaborate on this very important social media campaign to educate Canadians on this grave issue.