Hymns for the feast of St. Josephine Bakhita - and World Day of Prayer against Human Trafficking (8 February)

This is a selection of hymns suitable for the feast of St. Josephine Bakhita, and for services inspired by the World Day of Prayer against Human Trafficking.

The hymn suggestions below are either directly about Josephine, or based on the themes from his/her life and ministry.

The list is in two parts:   free-use materials that can be freely used with no concerns about copyright (because they are in the public domain), and hymns that may still be copyright depending on the laws in your country.

St Josephine Bakhita

We do not know the original name of the women who became St. Josephine Bakhita.

She was born to an affluent family in Darfur, Sudan, in 1868.  But their status was not enough to protect them from slave raiders:  in 1874 her older sister was kidnapped and sold into slavery, and in 1876 whe she was about seven years old, Bakhtia suffered the same fate.   The name “Bakhita,” meaning “fortunate” in Arabic, was given to her by these kidnappers.

She was sold as a slave at least five times, to sometimes-cruel masters.  The final sale was to Callisto Legnani, a consular official in Khartoum.   This man was well-disposed towards her, and would have taken her back to her own village.  But she was so young when she was kidnapped that she could not remember where she had some from.   Because of this, he still kept her in a state of slavery, even though this was now illegal in both Sudan and Italy.    Eventually, he gifted her to, Augusto Michieli, an Italian merchant who took her to Italy to care for his daughters.  In Venice, Bakhita took Michieli’s daughter to a school run by religious sisters from the Canossian order.  It was here that she first learned about Jesus and the Catholic faith.

Eventually Michieli was recalled to Africa.  He wanted to take Bakhita with him, but she refused to leave, and with support from the Canossian sisters and the patriarch of Venice, she was able to take her case to court.   She was declared a free woman, because her enslavement had been illegal since it started.

She became a Catholic and was given the name, Josephine in 1890, and joined the Daughters of Charity of Canossa (ie a Canossian nun) )in 1896.  She was a member of their community in Italy for over 40 years, dedicating her life to comforting the poor and suffering.

In 1910 the sisters asked her to tell story of deliverance from slavery, so it could be preserved as a testament to her strength and grace.

She died in Italy in 1947, aged 78 years.

St. Josephine Bakhita was beatified in 1992 and declared a saint in 2000 and her feast day is 8 February:  she is the patron Saint of Sudan and of the victims of slavery and human trafficking.  Her feast day became the first international day for prayer and reflection on human trafficking, in 2015.

About the World Day of Prayer against human trafficking

The United Nations defines human trafficking as
“The recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability, or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation.”

On February 8, people all over the world are encouraged to participate in prayer services to create greater awareness about human trafficking, and through prayer.   Ideally these services should include the experiences of people,like Josephine Bakhita who that have suffered from human trafficking, and also to comfort, strengthen, and help empower survivors.


Possible Old Testament Readings

  • Genesis 37: 17b-35 (Joseph is sold by his brothers)
  • Exodus 3:1–12 (Moses and the burning bush, God calls Moses to set Israel free from slavery)
  • Deuteronomy 10: 17–19 (God loves the stranger)
  • Isaiah 58: 7–10 (If you do away with the yoke)

Possible New Testament Readings 

  • 2 Corinthians 11: 23-27 (Paul’s story of his troubles may reflect the experience of people who have been trafficked.)
  • Galatians 5: 1, 13-15 (you were called to liberty)
  • Philemon 9-10. 12–17 (Paul gives freedom to a slave)


  • Matthew 25: 31-46 (what you did to the least of these…)
  • Luke 4: 16-21 (proclamation of the Kingdom including liberty to captives)

Free-use hymns

  • We Shall Overcome

Hymns which may still be copyright

27 Million – Redman, Adekanmbi, West, West, and Weeks

A Voice Was Heard in Ramah – Gillette

The Beatitudes -  Kearney ... and many others

Break Every Chain - Regan

Building God’s Kingdom - Burland

For Everyone Born – Murray

For the Troubles and the Sufferings of the World – Neto, Monteiro and Lockward

For Those Who Can’t Speak – Burgess, Donehey, Jamison, Juarez, Minor, Owen, Shirley (sung by Tenth Avenue North)

God Weeps with us Who Weep and Mourn – Troeger

He Knows My Name – Walker

Healer of Our Every Ill

Hear Us O Lord as we Voice Our Laments – Landegent

How can it Be – Daigle

Hymn of St. Josephine Bakhita - Thompson (ref - sung to the tune BEACH SPRING - used for other hymns including God of Day and God of Darkness)

In an Age of Twisted Values – Leckebusch

In Labour all Creation Groans – Dufner

O Christ the Healer – Pratt Green

O Day of Peace – Daw

O For a World – Winter

Open Our Eyes – Keil

Prayer of St. Francis

Raise Your Voice for Justice - Burland

Sacred the Body – Duck

Sarah’s Song – Christensen

Servant Song - Gillard

We Cannot Measure How You Heal – Bell and Maule

Resources for church-music selection

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