The Vigil of St Bakhita in Madrid organized by the Diocesan Commission against Human Trafficking of which Begoña Iñarra is the coordinator, is celebrated every year in a different parish, to create awareness in the different parts of the town about human trafficking.
This year it was celebrated in St Cayetano parish, in the heart of the traditional and well-known Rastro (flea market) district of Madrid. There were about 100 people and many people all over Spain and Latin America followed the video in streaming.
The members of the Human trafficking commission animated the vigil written by one of the members. The social vicar of Madrid Archdiocese introduced the vigil that was very symbolic.
A beautiful image of Ste Bakhita was before the altar. Four people put up five posters with the words “Freedom” “Dignity”, “Caring Paths”, “Inclusion” and “Empowerment”, at St. Bakhita’s feet.
All along the prayer, we made a representation to help us better visualise and become aware of what “binds” the victims of trafficking, what are the chains that prevent them from living in freedom.
In the first stage: EYES OPEN, we met the victims and their perpetrators.
A woman and a man put themselves in the “skin” of the victims, while three men and a woman represented the perpetrators. These ones tied strongly around the victims a big belt from where they hung different ribbons that had written in big letters: War, Violence, Poverty, Rape, Environmental crisis and Economic crisis. The perpetrators were holding the victims by these ribbons, while they walked or remained standing from the entrance of the Church to the altar, stopping while the assembly prayed, listened to God’s word and sung. A big candle was lit at the feet of Ste Bakhita.
While the group came slowly walking from the door to the middle of the Church, the assembly listened to the readings, prayed, kept silence and sung. We let ourselves be provoked, engaged, touched by their lives. We placed them in the presence of God and we prayed for the healing of the victims and the conversion of the perpetrators, asking God to accompany their processes.
In the 2nd stage: ATTENTIVE HEART to discover the daily paths of thousands of people in search of freedom and dignity, paths of care, inclusion and empowerment.
Four people took the posters next to the image of St. Josephine Bakhita with the words “Freedom and Dignity”, “Caring Paths”, “Inclusion” and “Empowerment” and went to meet the group of victims and perpetrators and accompanied them towards the altar. The 2nd candle was lighted at the foot of the image of St. Bakhita. The assembly prayed for the men and women in the Church who want to discover the paths of our brothers and sisters who are caught in the chains of war, violence, poverty, rape, environmental climate and economic crises, and seek freedom and dignity, ways of care, inclusion and empowerment, listened to God’s Word, kept a prayerful silence and sung.
3rd stage: GUIDING US to promote anti-trafficking actions that make us rediscover dignity, awaken joy and liberate hope, letting ourselves be inspired by the youth, their creativity and spiritual strength.
Some people from the assembly went towards the group of victims and perpetrators to untie the ribbons which oppress them as victims of trafficking. At the same time those carrying the words “freedom and dignity”, “pathways of care”, “inclusion” and “empowerment” lift them up and when all the ribbons are untied, they put them back at St. Bakhita’s feet in front of the altar. A pair of sandals is brought to the altar as a symbol of our walking with integrity in total respect for the unshakeable dignity of the human being and the love of God. After the reading of the Word of God, the assembly asks the God of tenderness to teach us to welcome the pain of so many victims and to accompany the healing processes of the survivors.
Stage 4: JOIN HANDS walking together to build a culture of encounter that leads to the conversion of inclusive hearts and societies, capable of unmasking stereotypes and protecting the rights of every person.
On the altar are all the people who represent survivors of trafficking, the perpetrators, those who help to untie what oppresses and those who represent “freedom and dignity”, “pathways of care”, “inclusion” and “empowerment”. They and all the assembly join hands and form a circle around the altar. The image of Ste Bakhita with the symbols and the candles lit are at the centre of the circle, where the symbol of this 4th stage, the GOSPEL is brought in and placed at the feet of St. Bakhita. This shows our commitment to let ourselves be enlightened by the power of the Word. At the end of the vigil St. Bakhita’s song accompanies our greetings and embraces as we bid each other farewell.
Sr Begoña Iñarra, MSOLA