Skip links

Survivor of human trafficking St. Josephine Bakhita discovered God’s infinite love

On Feb. 8, we celebrate the feast of St. Josephine Bakhita, an African nun who was born in Darfur, Sudan, and eventually became an Italian citizen.

Josephine experienced firsthand the horrors of slavery for much of her life. The name “Bakhita” — which means “lucky” in Arabic — was given to her by those who trafficked her when she was between 7 and 9 years old. She then received the name Josefina, “Giuseppina,” 12 years later, when she was baptized.

“If I were to meet again those slave traders who kidnapped and tortured me, I would kneel down to kiss their hands because, if this had not happened, I would not now be Christian and religious,” Bakhita said in her biography. These words are an introduction to the beauty of her spirit and the greatness of her heart. Bakhita is an icon of the history of Christianity in Africa.

The future saint’s origins are not entirely clear, but she was probably born in Olgossa, a village in Darfur, Sudan, around 1869. She did not know for sure where and when she was born, nor did she remember the name she was given at birth. But she did have memories of the period before she was kidnapped and sold into slavery. “I lived a very happy and carefree life, without knowing what suffering was,” she said.

Bakhita lived with her parents and siblings until the day she was kidnapped in the forest by Arab slave traders. They took her to a town called El-Obeid, where she was sold. The man who bought her that day would be the first of a total of five “masters” who owned her during her life.

One of those five men — her fourth “master” — was particularly cruel. She suffered the worst humiliation and mistreatment by him when she was only about 13. He had her tattooed, which involved suffering 114 incisions made in her skin. To avoid later infection, these cuts were “cured” with salt over the course of a month. Reflecting on the great trauma and abuse she endured, Bakhita remarked: “I felt like I was going to die at any moment, especially when they put the salt on me.”

Read more at Catholic News Agency 

Share with Friends: