By Emily Hausheer, M.A. student
Josephine Bakhita’s life was an inspiring story of compassion. This Sudanese heroine has a prominent display on her life story at the Museum of the Bible in Washington, DC. As you enter the museum, you can see a large picture of her on the second floor window looking out. 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 were able to change hearts spiritually and change the world. Bakhita’s story is included in this exhibit as a 20th century story of a woman who went from slavery to freedom. There is a picture of her, as well as a short and engaging video that narrates her life story.
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 serving 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 proclaimed her as a saint (saints are people from the Catholic Church who performed great works and are set apart for honor). Professor Saunders, who founded an NGO to help the persecuted Church in Sudan, was traveling throughout Rome and Vatican City during the ceremony 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 patron of our Master of Arts in Human Rights program.