juicyecumenism.com| 030818 | Faith McDonnell
FOR INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY,
AN INTERNATIONAL WOMAN OF POWER. . . THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
February 8 is the Feast Day of Josephine Bakhita, former Sudanese slave, canonized as St. Josephine Bakhita on October 1, 2000. Yes, I realize that this blog is in the Evangelical channel, but the life and testimony of this saint is truly Ευαγγέλιο, the Good News of the Gospel. It is also a reminder of how God can use for good the most evil and despicable actions of men. And it is a demonstration of Jesus’ love for the daughters of Darfur.
The patron saint of Sudan, (whether the National Islamic Front government of that nation likes it or not!) Bakhita is also the patron saint of victims of slavery and trafficking. She is the first person from Sudan ever to be canonized or beatified.
Bakhita was born in Darfur — the area of western Sudan now in its 14th year of genocide perpetrated by a government working to push out, kill, or dilute through births resulting from rape, all of the black African people groups. The Khartoum regime is changing Darfur’s demography, giving the land to the militias and Sudanese armed forces that have “cleared” the land of its people, and like ISIS, are building up the Caliphate.
But conditions were not much better for black African Sudanese in Bakhita’s time. The Catholic Online biography reveals that Bakhita was born in 1869, of the Daju people group. Daju once ruled the region and called it Dardaju (land of the Daju). Although her family was well-respected and prosperous, and her father was the brother of the chief of their village of Olgossa, they were nothing more than “slaves” to the Arab Muslim slave traders who preyed cowardly upon black Africans.
When she was seven or so, Bakhita was kidnapped. According to Catholic Online, she was forced to walk barefooted some 600 miles to the slave market in El Obeid. The horrors, pain, and loneliness of being enslaved for eight years were still to come, but already trauma caused to forget her own African name. So she was given the name bakhita, the Arab word for “lucky.” She was also forced to become a Muslim.
Bakhita was sold into slavery multiple times in the markets in both El Obeid and Khartoum. Pope Benedict XVI wrote of Bakhita in his Encyclical on Hope (Spe Salvi #3) that when she was the slave of a Turkish general’s wife and mother, “she was flogged every day till she bled; as a result of this she bore 144 scars throughout her life.” The experiences of this little girl, being treated like an animal, beaten by those who enslaved her, never again feeling the loving touch of her parents or even a gentle touch from a kind human being, foreshadow the experiences of hundreds of thousands of black African Sudanese people, enslaved not just in the 19th century, but in the 20th and 21st centuries.
(This article was originally published at the Patheos Evangelical Channel, on the Faith & Chelsen: Tackling Tough Topics in Church and Culture blog. Click here to read it.)