An elderly Jesuit priest struggling in an Indian jail with ill health says he still finds happiness in listening to the stories of other inmates and credits his congregation for the training that helps him cope with his situation.
Father Stan Swamy, 84, has been in Taloja Central Jail in Mumbai since 9th October following his arrest on charges of sedition and links with outlawed Maoist rebels.
Ucanews.com reported the priest is suffering from Parkinson’s disease, a hernia and age-related ailments and is unable to eat and drink without help from other prisoners. Inmates help him bathe, wash his clothes and do other daily chores on account of his age and ill health.
The Catholic Register in Toronto reported Father Erik Oland, Canada’s Jesuit provincial superior, has asked the Canadian Government to intervene in the case.
“Our country has publicly declared its commitment to championing the values of inclusivity and accountable governance; peaceful pluralism and respect for diversity; and human rights, including the rights of those most marginalised in society. All these values have either been ignored or violated in the case of Fr Stan,” Fr Erik wrote in an October letter to Foreign Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne. “We cannot espouse these principles and values as a nation and do nothing in this case.”
Ucanews.com reported Far Stan maintains an attitude of contentment and credits his Jesuit training and close to 50 years of working with underprivileged Indigenous and Dalit people.
The National Investigating Agency, a federal agency empowered to combat terror in India, arrested the priest on 8th October from his residence in Ranchi, capital of Jharkhand state, and charged him under the stringent Unlawful Activities Prevention Act.
Fr Stan tried for interim bail because of his failing health and old age, but the court dismissed his request on grounds that he was arrested under the UAPA.
The priest has denied any wrongdoing. Church leaders have accused authorities of persecuting the priest because of his work with marginalised communities.
The case has also attracted the attention of the United Nations.
The next hearing of his case is on Thursday this week.
Photo: Jesuit Father Stan Swamy, pictured in a screenshot from a video, has been incarcerated in an Indian jail since his arrest last month. The priest, who has worked for tribal rights in India, credits his Jesuit training and work with India’s Indigenous people for providing him with coping strategies. (CNS screenshot/YouTube)