International Day of Prayer for Victims of Human Trafficking, Feast Day of St. Josephine Bakhita to be Observed on Feb. 8

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The International Day of Prayer and Awareness against Human Trafficking will be observed on Feb. 8, the feast day of St. Josephine Bakhita. The event is designated by the Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development as a time of remembrance for victims and survivors of labor and sex trafficking.

Born around 1869 in Sudan, Josephine Bakhita was kidnapped and sold into slavery at the age of seven and trafficked to Italy. In 2000, Pope John Paul II canonized St. Bakhita, concluding that she “came to understand the profound truth that God, and not man, is the true Master of every human being, of every human life.”

In observance of the International Day of Prayer and Awareness Against Human Trafficking, Bishop Mario E. Dorsonville, auxiliary bishop of Washington and chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Migration has released the following statement regarding the Church’s ongoing work and steadfast commitment to eradicating human trafficking and alleviating its harm to survivors:

“The Holy Father has aptly described slavery as ‘a scourge that wounds the dignity of our weakest brothers and sisters.’ Often unseen, we know that human trafficking is pervasive throughout the world, including in the United States, and it is imperative that we take all necessary steps to address this injustice. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated many of the inequalities that fuel human trafficking and exploitation. As we work to emerge from this global event, we must not forget those on the peripheries of our society. On this occasion and always, our hearts and prayers are with all who are impacted by human trafficking, and we pledge our ongoing commitment to rid the world of this modern slavery.”

On February 8, USCCB’s Migration and Refugee Services will participate in an international prayer service organized by Talitha Kum, a global network organization of women religious who advocate for and help victims of human trafficking that is endorsed by the Vatican, which will include a reflection by Bishop Dorsonville. The United States will be participating in the global “Marathon of Prayer and Awareness” service from 11:00 PM – 12:00 AM EST. The prayer service will be livestreamed on YouTube.

For help in raising awareness about human trafficking, please visit USCCB’s Become a SHEPHERD program for downloadable educational materials and resources and check out other anti-trafficking resources on the Justice for Immigrants website.