WASHINGTON - Each year, on February 8, the Catholic Church around the world marks the International Day of Prayer and Awareness Against Human Trafficking. The theme chosen for this year is “Journeying in Dignity,” through which the faithful are called to recognize the processes that lead to exploitation, discover the daily paths of those in search of freedom and dignity, promote anti-trafficking actions, and build a culture of encounter.
The event coincides with the feast day of Saint Josephine Bakhita, who was kidnapped in her native Sudan at the age of seven, sold into slavery, and trafficked to Italy, where she was eventually freed and became a member of the Canossian Daughters of Charity. She was canonized by Pope John Paul II in 2000.
Leading up to February 8, Bishop Mark J. Seitz of El Paso, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Migration, stated, “The bishops of the United States join with the Universal Church in praying for those impacted by the sin of human trafficking, which our Holy Father, Pope Francis, has described as ‘an open wound in the body of Christ, in the body of all humanity.’ Let each of us, as witnesses to the Gospel of life, grow in solidarity with our brothers and sisters who are exploited in this way and inspired by the life of Saint Josephine Bakhita, accompany them in the pursuit of justice.”
In observance of the International Day of Prayer and Awareness Against Human Trafficking, Bishop Seitz will participate in a virtual pilgrimage of prayer and awareness on February 8. The event will begin at 3:30 a.m. EST, starting in Oceania, then move across the world with participation from Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Europe, and Latin America, before concluding with North America at 9:30 a.m. EST. The pilgrimage will be livestreamed at prayagainsttrafficking.net in five different languages and will also feature a message from Pope Francis. The faithful are invited to use the hashtag #PrayAgainstTrafficking on social media as they participate. More information is available on the website for the International Day of Prayer and Awareness Against Human Trafficking.
Additionally, the USCCB’s Department of Migration and Refuge Services is hosting a webinar entitled “St. Josephine Bakhita - A Saint for Victims and Survivors of Human Trafficking” on February 7 at 2:00 p.m. EST. Registration is required.
View this release on the USCCB website.