On February 8, 2023, at the feast of St. Josephine Bakhita, Sisters of the Holy Cross across the globe educated their local communities about the exploitation of human beings through trafficking. St. Josephine’s powerful story of survival and faith conversion inspires dialogue about the economic and social injustices that breed human trafficking.
In a Ugandan classroom, Holy Cross Sisters educated students about the patron saint of trafficked individuals and shared stories of their ministry and outreach. Two survivors, whom the sisters have accompanied, joined the class to share their experiences of being coerced and trafficked. One of the sisters reflected on the experience and said, “From the sharing of the survivors, the students realized that trafficking is brutal and inhumane, and most survivors come back sick and shattered into pieces—physically, spiritually, and psychologically.”
The Sisters of the Holy Cross work to bring healing and rehabilitation to those who feel shattered. One avenue of advocacy and support is through airtime on local radio stations to discuss social justice issues. The radio programs describe the crime of human trafficking and investigate the schemes used to attract and deceive. The sisters have hope that this will counter the messages that lure people into false promises of high-paying jobs. The programs also include call-in opportunities, which allow people who have been trafficked to seek help and support directly. Ultimately, rescue efforts for those being actively trafficked are made with support from ministerial partners. Survivors are provided a safe space and are housed in a rehabilitation center with resources that include counseling, medical support, and spiritual nourishment.
The Sisters of the Holy Cross are just one model for this social justice work. VIVAT International, of which the Congregation is a member, has prioritized collaborative efforts to speak out against trafficking through education, forums, and advocacy. VIVAT’s participation in United Nations’ efforts to eradicate extreme poverty and empower women directly impacts the shared goal of ending trafficking. In his address to participants of the International Conference on Combating Human Trafficking, Pope Francis said, “Human trafficking is an open wound on the body of contemporary society, a scourge upon the body of Christ.” In this same spirit, with the intercession of St. Josephine Bakhita, humanity is called to look at the open wounds of individuals experiencing abuse or coercion and see an invitation to restore human dignity through prayer, listening, advocacy, and action.
Elizabeth Palmer, Justice Associate, Sisters of the Holy Cross