At the Sudan Relief Fund, we have chosen to adopt St. Josephine Bakhita as our organization’s patron saint. Her legacy is seen in her spirit of endurance to forbear under some of the most difficult circumstances imaginable; it is found in her courage to strive for a better and more meaningful life; and it is reflected in her humanity to triumph over evil through goodness, forgiveness, and service to God and others.
We believe this example encapsulates the spirit of the people of South Sudan, and our partners and volunteers who fight each and every day to help them achieve a life of hope and empowerment.
St. Josephine Bakhita is herself a native of Darfur, Sudan, born in 1869 as one of twin girls. Her sister was kidnapped and sold into slavery when they were five, and two years later Josephine Bakhita suffered the same fate. She endured untold atrocities under the heavy hand of her slave owners, including tattooing over large parts of her body, being forced to wear heavy chains, and beatings of such severity she was nearly left for dead.
At age 13, Bakhita was bought by an Italian consular agent in Sudan, where she found some blessed peace working in his house. For three years she received a Christian welcome, wore a white robe, and was treated with dignity. At age 16, the consular left Sudan due to political unrest, and Bakhita convinced him to bring her.
In Genoa, Italy, she was entrusted to work for friends of the consular, becoming a beloved nanny to the family’s baby girl. During that time, she was befriended by the family’s administrator, a kind and godly older man who gave her a cross and arranged for Bakhita to live in Venice with the child she looked after. It was here she was first able to become educated and learn about the love of God and the gospel of salvation.
When the child’s mother came a year later to take her daughter and Bakhita to Africa where the family owned a hotel, Bakhita for the first time objected, petitioning the Italian government and church to allow her to stay in Italy, where slavery was in fact outlawed. She won this battle, and her freedom. She joined the order of the Canossian sisters where she eventually became a nun and dedicated her life to serving God and sharing His love with others.
Saint Bakhita was canonized in 2000 when she was named the Patron Saint of Sudan by Pope John Paul II. Today the Sudanese look to Saint Bakhita for inspiration in their times of turmoil and for encouragement to overcome struggles. A novel entitled “Bakhita” is based on the poignant true story of the slave who became a saint, demonstrating how a human can survive the obliteration of one’s own identity, and how kindness and generosity can rise out of profound trauma. To read more about her story, purchase the book here.