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Challenge to be generous with wealth

February 8 is the feast of St. Josephine Bakhita. At her canonisation in 2000, Pope John Paul II said that in the life of the former slave, we find a shining advocate of genuine emancipation, a life that inspires not passive acceptance, but firm resolve to work effectively to return those deprived of their rights to true freedom.

On 30 November 2007, Pope Benedict XVI wrote in In Hope We are Saved (Spe Salvi) a summary of her entire life as an outstanding example of Christian hope.

Born in the Sudan in 1869, she was a slave from the age of around eight. After a series of both caring and cruel owners, she was bought by the Italian vice consul in Khartoum, Callisto Legnani, and eventually taken back to Italy.

A family took her on to care for their daughters and she accompanied them to a Canossian Sisters’ boarding school, where she was baptised. She then resisted family pressure to accompany them back to Africa and a long court case followed over her right to remain in Italy.

The court ruled that as slavery was illegal, she was free to remain in the country and in 1893 she joined the Canossian congregation and remained with it for the rest of her life.

Her picture is displayed in the hall at the Sacred Heart Canossian School in Caine Road.

There is a strong move afoot to have her declared the patron of slaves and trafficked persons and on her feast day this year, Pope Francis said that her life should inspire us to help victims of trafficking and forced migration, especially singling out the Rohingya in the Union of Myanmar.

“These people thrown out of Myanmar move from place to place because no one wants them,” the pope said. One refugee in Thailand has commented, “I feel that there is no soil where I am able to place my feet.”

Today, there are over 21 million refugees and over half of them are cared for by 10 nations that share only 2.5 per cent of the gross income of the world and, by and large, are Muslim-majority countries.

Jordan hosts 89 refugees per 1,000 population, Lebanon 209, Chad 31, Djibouti 17, the Congo 14, Cameroon 13, Turkey 23 and South Sudan 22.

By contrast, among wealthy nations Sweden comes out top with 14, followed by Canada and France with four, and Germany with three.

Meanwhile, Australia with 1.5 per 1,000, and the United States of America (US) with less than one, squabble over some 1,500 people isolated in Nauru and Manus Island, making a huge international issue over a tiny percentage of those challenging the world to generosity.

Hong Kong does not smell rosy either. Its unified screening process limps along with little more than symbolic meaning for the approximately 10,000 people seeking refuge and resettlement in a third country.

At this time, when the new president of the US, which has been one of the main destinations for refugees from Hong Kong, has turned his back on them, an effort to offer better care and process them more quickly would be a good witness to the wealthy world, which often squashes rather than raises the hopes of people in need. JiM