St Josephine Bakhita Day 2019
Friday 8th February is the Feast Day of St Josephine Bakhita – the patron saint of victims of modern slavery and human trafficking. On this day Catholics are encouraged to pray for all those affected by the crimes of modern slavery and human trafficking, and the people that volunteer and work to eradicate this crime. This year the particular focus is on those who are caught up in forced labour and labour exploitation both in the UK and beyond. Bishop Patrick Lynch, Lead Bishop on Trafficking England and Wales, has written a letter to all Catholic parishes regarding the Feast.
Labour exploitation currently makes up the greatest percentage of modern slavery cases in the UK. Victims of forced labour are made to work long hours, often in tough conditions without the training and safety measures in place. The majority, if not all, of wages are taken by the traffickers. This often accompanied by threats and violence. Cases of labour exploitation have been widely reported in car washes and nail bars however victims have been found in the manufacturing, entertainment, hospitality, agriculture, and construction industries.
The eradication of modern slavery and the pastoral care of victims is a priority for the Catholic Church. Pope Francis continually draws the attention of the Church and the wider world to the moral and human crisis evident in this widespread exploitation.
“Faced with the tragic reality of rising contemporary slavery, no one can wash their hands of it without being, in some way, an accomplice to this crime against humanity. This immense task, which requires courage, patience and perseverance, demands a joint and global effort on the part of the different actors that make up society.” (Pope Francis to the participants of the 2nd International Forum on Modern Slavery, May 2018)
The Santa Marta Group have produced a booklet, poster and prayer card for dioceses, parishes, schools, small groups and individuals to use to mark this feast day, and a suggested Liturgy for schools to celebrate the feast. The booklet includes a background and overview of modern slavery, prayers of intercession, social media resources and advice on how to help combat modern slavery.