International Day of Prayer and Awareness Against Human Trafficking

On February 8, Catholics around the world are encouraged to join in prayer to combat and raise awareness of human trafficking. Through prayer, we not only reflect on the experiences of those that have suffered through this affront to human dignity but also comfort, strengthen, and help empower survivors.

Calculated as a $150 billion industry, human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery and occurs when a trafficker uses force, fraud, or coercion to control another person for the purpose of soliciting labor or services against his/her will. There are an estimated 40.3 million victims of human trafficking worldwide. They can be of any race, color, national origin, disability, religion, age, gender, socioeconomic status, or education level, but human traffickers often prey upon members of marginalized communities and other vulnerable individuals.

The elimination of human trafficking is a priority issue for the Catholic Church, which believes every life is a gift from God and deserves to be protected and nurtured.

St. Josephine Bakhita

February 8 was chosen by Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and the International Union of Superiors General for the International Day of Prayer and Awareness Against Human Trafficking because it is the Feast Day of St. Josephine Bakhita. St. Josephine was kidnapped as a child and sold into slavery in Sudan, eventually ending up with the Italian consul in Sudan who took her to Italy. He gave her to a friend to serve as babysitter for their daughter. Josephine accompanied the girl to Venice's Institute of the Catechumens run by the Canossian Sisters, and it was there that she felt drawn to the Catholic Church. She was baptized and confirmed in 1890 and went to court to fight for her freedom, a case she won because slavery was then illegal in Italy. She became a Canossian nun and was known for her sweet nature and for her deep desire to make the Lord known. She was declared a saint in 2000.


O St. Josephine Bakhita, assist all those who are trapped in a state of slavery; intercede with God on their behalf so that they will be released from their chains of captivity. Those whom man enslaves, let God set free.

Prayer to St. Josephine Bahkita

Prayer to end human trafficking (External link)  

Message from Bishop Robert Deeley

It is shocking to consider the size and scope of the tragedy of human trafficking that exists in our world. Confronted by desperation and fraud, women and men are still exploited through forced prostitution and labor against their will. To be clear, this is modern day slavery that has affected over 40 million people. It cannot be accepted in any decent society.

Human trafficking is a horrific crime against the basic dignity and rights of the human person and requires massive resources and focus at the local, state, and federal levels to eliminate the root causes that allow it to exist. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops continues to call upon Congress to enact comprehensive immigration reform, which would provide legal avenues for men, women, and their families to enter the country and work legally and safely. Elected officials must collaborate to decisively build pathways that lead to the common good.

Survivors of human trafficking are commonly linked by poverty and a lack of opportunity, particularly immigrants and undocumented workers in the U.S. The selling of people, treated as instruments of gain, takes away all fundamental values rooted in the nature of a human being. As Pope Francis has said, it is a “scourge that wounds the dignity of our weakest brothers and sisters.”

So, what can we do as people of good will to assist survivors and victims? Parishes can offer opportunities to discuss this issue. The diocese is so grateful for programs like CourageLIVES, a division of Saint André Home that is Maine’s first residential program for women who have experienced commercial sexual exploitation and need a safe secure place to heal and rebuild.

Let us resolve as Christians to raise awareness of what is happening in our communities and pray that the victims and survivors of human trafficking find freedom, waiting arms to offer safety, an understanding of their intrinsic value, and a path to healing.


CourageLIVES is Maine's first residential program for women over the age of 18 who have experienced commercial sexual exploitation and need a safe secure place to heal, receive treatment, and start to rebuild their lives. It is a program of St. André Home, founded by the Good Shepherd Sisters of Quebec.

Stop Trafficking US. Based in Standish, the organization was established to stop the sexual abuse and exploitation of children in Maine.

The Amistad Movement: Like the captives aboard the Amistad slave ship who revolted and won their freedom, the Amistad Movement seeks to empower immigrants in at-risk communities with the educational tools to protect their community members from falling victim to human trafficking.

The Become a SHEPHERD program provides a way to incorporate anti-trafficking into your ministries and activities.

Bridging Refugee Youth and Children Services (BRYCS): Recognizing that survivors of trafficking have unique vulnerabilities and require specialized treatment and care, BRYCS works closely with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ department of Migration and Refugee Services (USCCB/MRS) to support its mission of providing outreach, education, services, and advocacy on behalf of victims of trafficking-including the most vulnerable-child victims of trafficking.

COMPASS - Coalition of Organizations and Ministries Promoting the Abolition of Slavery at Sea).

Pastoral Orientations on Human Trafficking is a 40-page booklet developed by the Migrants and Refugees Section of Integral Human Development at the Vatican.