In 2015, Pope Francis designated 8 February, the feast of St Josephine Bakhita, as the International Day of Prayer and Awareness against Human Trafficking.

Bahkita, who is also the patron saint of Sudan, her homeland, was kidnapped and sold into slavery at a very young age.

After years of being sold between traders and even brutally tortured, she finally found freedom in Italy, where she discovered the Canossian Sisters and, through them, Christ.

St Josephine Bakhita has become a symbol of hope in the fight against human trafficking, as well as a witness to love in the face of profound suffering.

This year, the theme for the day is ‘Journeying in Dignity: Listen, Dream, Act’. In preparation for the day, a week of activities has been planned in Rome (from 2 to 8 February) as representatives from around the world—students, volunteers, researchers, teachers and artists—gather to reflect on and discuss the continuing work of combating the scourge of human trafficking. All of these initiatives have been organised by Talitha Kum, an international network against trafficking.

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For those around the world wanting to join in prayer for this cause, an ‘online pilgrimage of prayer’ has been organised. Crossing all continents and time zones, with more than 50 countries involved, the live-streaming of this online event will begin at 9.30am Oceania time. Once subscribed to the prayer campaign’s newsletter, users will be given the specific timeline of events.

During this online event, it is expected that Pope Francis will deliver his annual address.

In the lead-up to the online pilgrimage of prayer, ACRATH (Australian Catholic Religious Against Trafficking Humans) has also put together some resources and ideas on how we can mark the day and more diligently work towards a slavery-free world.

In its earlier hours, the online pilgrimage will feature a video about a group of young social justice advocates from a Catholic secondary college in Nathalia, country Victoria. Students at St Mary of the Angels Secondary College examined the issue of slavery-free coffee. They uncovered the reality of trafficking in coffee production and responded creatively, investigating available slavery-free coffee brands and organising a coffee-tasting session for their teachers and peers. Their aim was to introduce the most popular brand of slavery-free coffee throughout the school, and they produced a video highlighting their learnings and documenting their coffee-tasting session.

A video about the work and creativity of these school students, produced by ACRATH and Talitha Kum, will premiere during the online pilgrimage.

Banner image: St Josephine Bahkita.