The scourge of human trafficking is a real threat to women and children all over the world, particularly in countries where women are still treated as subclass humans. It used to be a problem that was far away, a problem that happened in poor countries on the other side of the world, but not anymore. Unfortunately it is spreading right here at home in the good ole’ United States of America. People who have no value for the sanctity of life have created the perfect environment for this type of behavior to flourish and spread. When we allow people to decide if a child should live or die, when a society pushes abortion as a right, treating the unborn baby as subhuman…these are the fruits that will be reaped.
Many young women in the middle east are kidnapped by Muslims and sold into slavery every day. Some of these girls are as young as nine years old. They are sold for labor, and for sex. It is quite disturbing. Even here in our own homeland, people are selling children for exploitation or personal gain. Drug addicted parents have been caught selling their sweet little children to scumbags for sexual acts, so they can support their drug habit. There is something wrong with a society that falls so far, that parents won’t even protect their young children from the monsters of the world.
There are roughly 20.9 million human trafficking victims worldwide, and in the United States last year there were over 4,000 victims. But so often, victims do not report the crime. Many of them are afraid that they will be punished for the crime of prostitution. Unfortunately, many of these women and girls are forced into silence by pimps who threaten them with violence or threaten them by telling them that they will go to jail for prostitution. It is a dismal circle of violence and hopelessness for many of these victims. They are trapped, many of them feel like they have no way out. It is a vicious cycle that often offers no way of escape, except death.
As Christians we need to pray for these children…for these girls and these women. Even if we can do nothing else, they at least deserve that much from us. We have an obligation to bring them into our hearts and pray for them. Many of these young girls live in godless homes and have little hope…we have to be that hope. We have to carry the Light of Christ everywhere…even if it threatens our comfort zone…even if it makes us uncomfortable or sad. God expects great things from us. He created each of us for greatness. If you need a push in the right direction, you need to look no further than today’s saint, Saint Josephine Bakhita.
Josephine Bakhita was born into a wealthy Sudanese family in the late 1860’s. When she was just seven years old, Muslim slave traders captured her. She was sold and resold into the sex slave market while she was still a child. She was beat and abused at the hands of these men. A few years later she was bought by a Catholic Italian Consul General. He did not abuse her, either physically or sexually. Living with him and his family, she was finally able to have a bit of happiness. They treated her with respect and she was able to feel like a part of their family as she cared for their children. When the family moved back to Italy, she begged to go with them.
She was treated very well in Italy and grew to love the country. She became a Catholic Christian in the year 1890, and took the name Josephine as a symbol of her new life. In 1893, she entered the Institute of Canossian Daughters of Charity in Venice Italy. She lived with them for the next fifty years.
Even though she had endured much suffering and abuse at the hands of her captors, when she became a religious sister, she had a most pleasant demeanor and was very comforting to those she served. She was eager to always help with any task, often taking on the menial tasks that others avoided. She had a very warm continence and was the subject of a book that was published in 1930. After which, she was often sought after for speaking engagements. Any monies she earned she used to support the poor.
Her terrible ordeal did not tarnish her soul. As a matter of fact, she once said:
“If I were to meet the slave-traders who kidnapped me
and even those who tortured me,
I would kneel and kiss their hands, for if that did not happen,
I would not be a Christian and Religious today…”
Even though she was not a Christian at the beginning of her ordeal, she was able, with God’s grace, to look at the world, look at the events of her life, with the eyes of one who trusts in the Lord. Even though she suffered at the hands of men and endured terrible pains, she was able to see that God had a purpose for her. She could see that He had indeed created her for great things. She carried her sufferings as a Cross that united her to Christ. She once said:
because the Lord has destined me for greater things…”
So today, as we contemplate the life of this brave woman, let us remember our sisters who are still being captured and imprisoned in these hellish traps. Let us actively work to end this horrible crime against humanity. If we can offer our prayers for these women who suffer, or perhaps volunteer or donate funding, we can help ease the suffering of so many, who have lost hope. We can bring the Light of Christ into these dark corners of the world and help these women…these girls realize what Saint Josephine was able to realize…that there is a God, and He loves them very much.
Let us pray for them, that God’s grace will reach them, and that even in their darkest hours they may know that there is hope. On this day, which has been designated as the International Day of Prayer to Stop Human Trafficking, let us vow to not forget these women who are often used and abused and treated without the dignity they deserve. And perhaps, with God’s goodness and grace…we may be able to help these women…these girls… realize that in fact they were created for far greater things.
O Lord, you said you came: “to set the captives free.”
In our world young men and women who are trafficked are modern day slaves.
Help these young people not to lose hope.
Give the grace for elected officials to grow in awareness of and to take active steps to eradicate this horror.
Teach them not to prosecute the victims of trafficking but to bring to justice those who perpetrate this crime.
Lord, give the grace of conversion to those who mistreat unfortunates for their own personal gain.
May demand decrease as people realize that prostitution is a crime against human dignity, forced upon these people, who are more victim than anything else.
May the awareness of this horrendous crime spread throughout the world and may many join the efforts to stop trafficking and help the victims begin anew, filled with hope.
We ask this in the name of Jesus. Amen.
~ Sr. Veronica Piccone, MSC