By Emily Hausheer, M.A. student
Saint Josephine Bakhita’s life is an inspiring story of compassion. The Museum of the Bible in Washington, DC, features a prominent display of this Sudanese heroine. As you enter the museum, you see a large picture of her looking out from the second-floor window. Once you are on the second floor, there are exhibits commemorating the great fights for justice that took place throughout history against slavery, including that of William Wilberforce. Throughout the world, the Bible and various denominations of Christianity changed hearts spiritually and changed the world. Bakhita’s story is included in this exhibit as a 20th-century story of a woman who rose from slavery to freedom.
As a young girl in Sudan, Bakhita was captured by slave traders. Bakhita recalled much anguish and fear when she was captured and torn from her family. She was sold to an Arab man and later a Turkish general. She suffered great distress as his slave. Eventually, she was sold to an Italian man after bringing him a cup of coffee. Bakhita was brought to Italy, where her life improved greatly and she found her freedom. It was in Italy where she yearned to know more about Christianity and God. She was accepted into a religious community and devoted herself to a life of compassion and service to others. Bakhita helped wounded soldiers during World War I and was known to have a kind face full of life. She died in 1947, leaving behind a legacy of true freedom.
In 2000, the Catholic Church declared her a saint. Professor Saunders, who founded an NGO to help the persecuted Church in Sudan, was traveling throughout Rome and Vatican City during the canonization and witnessed it! It was a very special moment for everybody involved, and a story that deserves to be told to the world. She continues to serve as an inspiration to people throughout Sudan, Italy, and the world as a resolute woman who brought kindness and love to a dark world. Bakhita sought truth and freedom, and although she faced many obstacles, she found her liberty. Saint Bakhita is the patroness of our Master of Arts in Human Rights program.