“Journeying in dignity” the theme chosen for the IX International Day of Prayer and Awareness against Human Trafficking 2023, appealed me to sink deeper into it and to enter into the shoe of humanity that has tears rolling across their cheeks and pain in their hearts.
It was on 31 December 2022, the last day of the year, a day marked by gratitude and thanksgiving to God Almighty for all His graciousness experienced throughout the year, at dusk, as a community, we gathered before the Eucharistic Lord to reflect upon the journey made for the past 365 days of the year 2022. “Journey-” a word that fascinates me. Our life is a journey and we are always at the cross-roads. Each time on our life journey, we have an opportunity to pause, to introspect, to scrutinise and to ponder how we made that journey possible for self and for others. As we proceed we place the sign-boards, we mark the speed and we create the road map travelled by us.  The journeys are not always comfortable, a lot depends on the traffic, climate and the comrade. But to be true! Some journeys are blessed, enriched, encouraged, delighted that they build spiritual stamina and create positive vibes, while other journeys are ardours, devoid of graciousness, gloomy, tedious bringing us before a dead end.

The above theme ‘journeying in dignity’ promoted by the International Union of Superiors General (UISG) celebrated on February 8, ties itself with the liturgical memory of  St. Josephine Margaret Bakhita, the Sudanese-Italian, Canossian sister, who as a child had the dramatic experience of being kidnapped and enslaved and became the universal symbol of the Church’s commitment against human trafficking. The heartrending door-to-door outward journey of St. Bakhita as a child of 8 years, teaches us the pain and sufferings humanity meets on the cross road of life journey.  The torture, the pain and the humiliations on her road map are beyond compare. The legacy of her life narrates that once a young student asked Bakhita, “What would you do, if you were to meet captors?” without hesitation she replied, “If I were to meet those kidnapped me and even those who tortured me, I would kneel and kiss their hands. For, if these things had not happened, I would not have been a Christian and a religious today” Such are the perilous yet safe journeys we make, although discomfortable yet we filter what was the best and store it in our memory banks.
The Bible places before us great figures and their journeys which can become food for our own journey. Be it Abraham’s journey from Ur of Chaldeans to the land of Canaan (journey of faith), Joseph’s journey from Canaan to Egypt (Journey as a slave), Israelite’s journey from Egypt to the land of Canaan (Journey to salvation) Mary’s journey from Nazareth to Judea  (Journey of fiat), Mary and Joseph’s journey from Bethlehem to Egypt (Journey to safeguard and to protect) Magi’s journey from East to Bethlehem (Journey to adore), Jesus’ journey from Gethsemane to Calvary (Journey of redemption) women’s journey from the empty tomb to the upper room (Journey of proclamation) and journey on the road to Emmaus (Journey of consolation). Varied journeys from faith, to redemption to proclamation. They are always part and parcel of our life journey too. Depending upon the mindset that we choose, we arrive at the destination that we pitch.
UISG invites us to make a journey in dignity through prayer and activity to mark 8 February. Let us open our eyes to recognise, broaden our hearts to discover and take our steps to promote and to build  a culture of encounter. Year 2022, marked the increase in the number of people suffering from trafficking violence. You and me do have a part to free such bonded humanity, because we are all pilgrims on this land. We must not be afraid to take a U turn, to mark our own sign posts, to decide our own speed and to create our own road maps, which will foster and make comfortable the journey for me and my comrade. Let us dream of a world that will be a safe home for all, where we find enough strength and comfort while journeying towards Eternal Home through mountains and moors.
Let this year’s theme, which is chosen by an international group of 10 young representatives of partner organizations (Caritas International, Focolare movement, Talitha Kum, The Clewer Initiative, USMI Retre Anti-Tratta and WUCWO) and 4 young communication experts, lead us to make a journey: from unreal to real, from darkness to light, from death to immortality and may there be the reign of peace and prosperity.

Sr. Fabiola Fernandes

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