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Blessed Isidore Bakanja (born ca. 1887, at Bokendela in Democratic Republic of Congo, died at Busira (Belgian Congo), 15 August 1909) accepted the Christian faith at eighteen years of age through the ministry of Cistercian missionaries in what is today the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly known as the Belgian Congo).

Bakanja was a very devout convert and catechist. He had a great love for the Blessed Virgin Mary that he expressed through recitation of the Rosary and by being invested in the Brown Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

It was Bl. Isidore's practice to share the Catholic faith with his fellow workers and for this his Belgian employers held him in great contempt. Christian faith was seen as a threat to the power of the colonizers as Christians were known to stand for the rights of the oppressed. Isidore was eventually confronted by his employers and ordered to cease sharing the Gospel as well as remove the scapular that he wore as a witness to his faith. Isidore's refusal to comply with the demands of his supervisor resulted in his being brutally beaten and chained.

As a result of the beating and persistent ill treatment he received Isidore's wounds became severely infected. As his condition worsened his supervisor sought to keep him from the view of the plantation's inspector, however, Isidore was discovered and taken to the inspector's own home for emergency treatment. His condition had deteriorated so severely, however, that no further

At this point Isidore told the inspector “tell them that I am dying because I am a Christian.” Missionaries in the area visited Isidore and urged him to forgive the supervisor. He assured them that he already had, declaring “When I am in heaven, I shall pray for him very much.

[www.carmelite.org]

Blessed Isidore Bakanja was beatified on 24 April 1994 from pope John Paul II. His feast day is 12 August on the Carmelite Calendar of Saints, 15 August in the general Church calendar. Isidore Bakanja is considered a strong witness to the grace of reconciliation that can be experienced between peoples of different races.

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