Who is Josephine Bakhita

June 8, 2021

Most people, especially the catholic community, celebrate the life of Josephine Margaret Bakhita, not actually knowing the reason why. Only a few have gotten the idea on the history of Josephine Bakhita. It resulted to questions on the geographical origin of Saint Josephine Bakhita. These questions disturbed the minds of many Christians, especially the catholic believers. It has called on for researches to investigate the geographical origin of Saint Josephine Bakhita, as well as her life experiences and views on virtues (Zanini, 2000, p. 190). Therefore, this paper seeks to answer the overwhelming questions amongst the catholic followers.

History of Josephine Bakhita

It is unfortunate that neither the actual names nor the exact date of birth of Saint Josephine Bakhita is known. The name Bakhita is Arabic term, which means lucky. Nevertheless, it is believed that Saint Josephine Bakhita was born back in 1869 in Darfur, a small village in Olgossa, which is situated in todays Southern Sudan (Roche, 1964, p. 96). Josephine Bakhita is associated to the Daju community, which was led by her uncles. Bakhita was a sister to three brothers and two sisters. In fact, as stated in her autobiography, Josephine Bakhita was a twin sister to one of her sisters. When Josephine was still a little girl, she had an experience that led her to become a saint. Some times back (around 1877), when Josephine Bakhita was about 8 years of age, the Arab slaves traders, who were believed to have kidnapped her sister two years back, kidnapped her. Despite her age, she was maliciously forced to walk barefoot to El Obeid, a distance of over 960 kilometers. On her way, she was transacted twice to different traders. In a period of about 12 years (1877-1889), Josephine Bakhita had been sold to several traders before she was fled away by an Italian consul. It is believed that, as a result of the upset of the abduction, Josephine Bakhita completely forgot her actual name. She was also converted to Islam by force, and given the name Bakhita (Roche, 1964, p. 96).

In the year 1883, Josephine Bakhita was sold to her fifth owner, Callisto Legnani, an Italian consul, who set her free. When the family of the Italian consul was forced to leave the country, Bakhita requested to accompany them and she was granted permission. She was then brought to a small city next to Genoa, where she served as house help to the daughter of her masters friend. It was during her stay in Genoa, when she came across the Canossian sisters, and in due course, she decided to join them. Bakhihta was offered a house in Schio, in the northern region of Italy, where she lived until her death. Bakhita used to serve as a doorkeeper before her death. She became very famous within the local community and everyone loved her smile, holiness and her gentleness. Bakhita died in the year 1949, in the city of Genoa, in Italy.

In the year 2000, the Catholic Church, particularity the African catholic churches, were supplemented with a new Saint (Burns & Butler, 2005, p. 52-55). Pope John Paul II canonized Saint Josephine Bakhita in Vatican. Paul II referred Bakhita as a universal sister. The amazing experience of Josephine Bakhita from the ill-treated slave to saint unified the African Catholics, especially the women. Bakhita became the first Sudanese to be canonized, as well as the first person from the African continent, after several North Africans, who had been declared saints, converted to Muslims. Josephine Bakhita has been a symbol of unity and faith for Christians in the war-ravaged nations of Sudan (Zanini, 2000, p. 190). All the Christian parts in Sudan celebrate her on 8th February. Josephine Bakhita canonization has brought great pride to the Sudan Christian community. The catholic church of Sudan refers Bakhita as a holy woman

Bakhita Views on Virtues

Virtues refer to a habit or a strong deposition to do what is good. There are two types of virtues, the moral and theological virtues. Moral virtues are achieved through personal efforts under the assistance of the grace of Lord, while theological virtues are acquired through Gods gift (Zanini 2000, p. 190). Saint Bakhita possessed a variety of the virtues. She strove to what was right throughout her entire life. Even before Saint Bakhita got saved, she did what was good. Gods grace, as Catholics catechism reveals to us, was working in Saint Bakhita. The scripture (Jeremiah 1:5, New Revised Standard Version) affirms us that even before we were formed in the womb, God knew us, he dedicated us before we were born and us prophets in the land he had appointed. God dispense his grace in open souls, and Josephine Bakhita willing to be used by God. In the books of wisdom (8:7) in the Catholic virtues, it reveals an insight of King Solomon: whoever loves justice, the results are virtues; and whoever teaches prudence and moderation, fortitude and justice, nothing is more important than these in life.

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Bakhitas Beliefs as a Christian

The quotes from Saint Josephine Bakhita reveal a high degree of human heart, committed to finding and acknowledging God, intrinsically through observations, miracles and experiences. A girl, who was once tortured to the point of death, her Lord rescued her from slavery. God is God of miracles; he raises the poor from dust and makes them to sit with princes (1 Samuel 2:8). Saint Bakhita was raised from slavery and made to become a very popular and respected woman in foreign land. Saint Bakhita had an outstanding faith and trust upon the Lord. Bakhita chose to abide the virtues of Christianity, such as faith and trust. In her quotes, Bakhita said that she had given everything to his master and she was sure that he would have taken care of her. Thus, the best thing for her was not that she considered being best, but what God wanted of her. Bakhita, as a true Christian, did not worry over her life, but put all her trust and faith upon the Lord. Bakhita believed that Jehovah her God was able to take care over her life and evade her from her enemies. Just like Stephen and Jesus, Bakhita did not revenge evil by evil. It was against the word of God, (1 peter 3:9, Romans 12:17) and against the Christian virtues, and thus, she said that if she met those who kidnapped her, or those who tortured her, she would have knelt down and kissed their feet. She viewed her torture as her way of salvation, and in her autobiography, she thanked her kidnapper and acknowledged those who tortured her.

Bakhitas View on Foundation

Saint Bakhitas foundation was influenced by a lot of challenges. She was kidnapped when she was a child. Though this was the beginning of her journey to a saint, she went through many difficulties. As the scripture reads (2 chronicles 20:1-37), we should not be afraid or get discouraged when we are faced with monumental obstacles; saint Bakhita never gave up even after she became a slave. As we read in the book of Jeremiah (1:5), Saint Bakhita knew that God had planned for her life, and what she was going through, was just a preparation to what was awaiting her. She said in her quotes, I knew I could not die, God had planned much for me to accomplish. Bakhita revealed that even if she found those, who had kidnapped her, or those who tortured her, she would have knelt down and kissed their feet because if it were not for them, she would not have become a sister. Thus, Bakhita viewed her torture and slavery as preparations for the mission that was ahead of her.

Bakhitas Message to Humanity about the Spirit

Through her life experience and her faith upon the Lord, Saint Bakhita revealed a message to the human generation about God. Saint Bakhita revealed that God was a spirit that gave hope, encouraged and provided way, where there was no way. Theological reports on the history of Bakhita show that the spirit of God was with her in every torture she went through. In her report, Saint Bakhita said that since she had a close friend to herself, she could not fear death. It is also affirmed in the scripture that says, …even if I go through the valley of death, I shall not fear… (Psalms 23:4). The life experienced by Saint Bakhita has really inspired my heart. The way Bakhita was uplifted by God from slavery to a famous and an honorable woman in a foreign land, has really inspired my spirit to seek the faithfulness of God even more. The small challenges I face and feel as if God has left me, have known that are my preparations to my destiny.

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Josephine Bakhita was a Sudanese woman born in Darfur in early 1869 (Roche 1964, p. 96). When she was very young, Josephine Bakhita was kidnapped by the Arab slaves traders, who later sold her to an Italian consul, who eventually took her to Italy. Afterwards, the Italian consul was forced to flee, and thus, Josephine Bakhita was taken to Genoa, where she served in the house of a daughter to her masters friend. It was during her stay at Genoa when Bakhita met with the Canossian sisters. In 1893, Bakhita joined the Canossian sisters. After that, Josephine Bakhita was offered a house in Schio, in the northern region of Italy, where she lived for the rest of her life. During her lifetime in Genoa, Bakhita served as a gatekeeper. Bakhita was very gentle and joyous to her visitors. It made her very famous within the local Italian community. Josephine Bakhita died in the year 1949 at the age of 80. During her lifetime, Josephine Bakhita inspired many people through her deeds. Bakhita had personal virtues, which enabled her to do what was right throughout her life. In the year 2000, Pope John Paul II, canonized Bakhita to a Saint (Zanini 2000, p. 190). Saint Bakhita became the first Sudanese woman to be canonized, and the first African saint after several Africans in the northern regions were converted to Muslims. Christians in all parts of Sudan celebrate Saint Bakhita on 8th February every year.