Bakhita: a shining advocate

Josephine Bakhita (feast day 8th February) was born around 1869 in Darfur, Western Sudan.  She came from a respectable and reasonably affluent loving family.  At the age of seven she was captured by slave traders and sold into slavery a number of times. Such was her trauma, she was unable to remember her name, and so she was named Bakhita meaning ‘the lucky one’.  She was forced to take on the Islamic faith.

As a slave, Bakhita was at the mercy of her owners, often beaten and whipped. As with many other slaves, she was marked with scars and tattooing, involving 114 patterns cut into her body and then filled with salt to ensure the scars were permanent. In 1882, Bakhita was bought by Callisto Legnani, the Italian Vice Consul, who treated her kindly.  When he returned to Italy, Josephine begged to go with him.  She was then given to Turina Michieli, who lived near Venice, spending 3 years as nanny to the Michieli’s daughter.  When Turina went to Sudan to her husband, Bakhita and her young charge were left in the care of the Canossian Sisters.  During this time she encountered the Christian faith and was instructed by the Sisters.  When the time came to go to Sudan with Turina, Bakhita refused to go.  With the assistance of the Sisters, and following a legal challenge in the Italian court, it was ruled that Bakhita had never legally been a slave, and was given her freedom.

Finally free, Bakhita chose to remain with the Canossian Sisters. On 9th January 1890 she was baptised Josephine Margaret Fortunata (Latin for Bakhita), and also confirmed. In 1893, She joined the novitiate and took her final vows in 1896.  Her ministry was characterized by gratitude and love for God.  She was a much loved Sister up until her death on 8th February 1947. At her canonization in 2000, Pope John Paul II said, “In St. Josephine Bakhita we find a shining advocate of genuine emancipation.” Josephine Bakhita is now remembered at the Patron Saint of victims of human trafficking.

Today slavery continues to blight our world, with an estimated 40.3 million people enslaved.

  • 136,000victims are estimated to be in the UK.
  • 6,993potential victims were found in the UK in 2018.
  • The numbers of children referred increased by 48%.
  • Of the victims referred, 2728 were female and 4261 were male; 3856 were adults and 3137 were minors.
  • Around 1,500 criminal investigations are currently live in the UK.

How can we help?


Learn more….. these two websites are a beginning to finding out more

 Get involved…. we welcome volunteers for our work with survivors of trafficking at St Chrysostom’s, or contact an organisation near you wherever you are. 

Report…….   Modern Slavery Helpline – call on 08000 121 700 


About stchrysostoms

St Chrysostom’s is an Anglican (Church of England) parish church in Manchester, UK. We’re an inclusive, diverse and welcoming faith community rejoicing in our Anglo Catholic tradition, where people of many differing backgrounds make friends. Find our Facebook group at
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