By Human Rights Graduate Student, Veronica Smaldone
The newest cohort for the MA in Human Rights visited the Museum of the Bible as part of the program’s orientation held on Friday, August 26. After an introduction by Program Director William Saunders, the University’s Provost, Aaron Dominguez, Professors Bradley Lewis and David Walsh, and Chinese human rights champion Chen Guangcheng, all eight students took the metro into the city together.
As we entered the museum’s expansive ground floor, Professor Saunders motioned to the group to gather around him. Once we closed in, he cast his eyes upward, pointed, and said, “There she is.” Looking down from a large banner on the second floor exhibit was the face of Saint Josephine Bakhita, the patron of our Masters program. As a girl in late nineteenth-century Sudan, Bakhita was enslaved and subjected to horrendous abuses. The second half of her life is characterized by her encounter with, and devotion to, the God who shared first-hand experience of the tortures she endured, enabling her to develop an astonishing level of forgiveness and joy while living through both world wars as a Canossian sister. As the exhibit highlights, Bakhita serves as inspiration and intercessor for a growing number of organizations that seek to combat human trafficking around the world.
The Museum of the Bible offered immersive engagement with the Bible from many different angles: as a historically significant text, as a compelling tale of human triumph and faltering, and most importantly, as the Word of the Creator to his creation. As such, our visit to the museum was a fitting introduction to the MA in Human Rights, a program which situates human rights within this foundational relationship between God and man. May the prayers of St. Josephine Bakhita guide our new cohort as we seek to promote the true flourishing of each person in society.