English bishops have called for the immediate release of Fr Stan Swamy, a Jesuit priest who has been unjustly imprisoned because of his work to support marginalised communities.
Four bishops from the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England & Wales’ International Affairs department expressed their prayerful support for Fr Swamy as they marked his 84th birthday.
Fr Swamy, who has spent his life defending the human rights of marginalised Dalit and Adivasi communities, has been imprisoned for more than 200 days on unfounded terrorism charges, which have been condemned by the UN, the local church, and the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences.
There are serious concerns for his wellbeing, particularly given the severity of the Covid-19 pandemic in India.
Fr Swamy, who turned 84 on 26th April, has Parkinson’s among several other health conditions.
The Bishop of Clifton, Declan Lang, chair of the Bishops’ Conference International Affairs Department, said: “I would like to assure you of my prayers – you are remembered every day. Your work with the marginalised Dalit and Adivasi communities is an inspiration to all of us and a courageous stand for justice.
Poignantly, Bishop Lang also raised the urgent need for Fr Swamy to have access to his medicine for Parkinson’s. Himself a sufferer, he said: “As someone who also suffers from Parkinson’s, I understand your need for medication – the absence of which makes life very difficult and can make one feel very vulnerable.”
The Bishop of Salford, John Arnold, chair of CAFOD, urged Catholics to pray for Fr Swamy’s “courage and strength in enduring such injustice”.
He also asked for prayers for his captors. “We ask that they may begin to glimpse the wrong that they inflict on Fr Stan – help them to recognise the injustice in their actions and guide them to the truth,” he said.
Auxiliary Bishop of Westminster and lead Bishop for Migrants and Refugees, Paul McAleenan, recalled the “many, many years” Fr Swamy has been campaigning on behalf of those denied justice.
“It is now time for us to do what Fr Swamy has been doing for years and demand justice for him,” he said.
The Bishop of Lancaster, Paul Swarbrick, added: “I cannot recall Christ ever giving up on his care for the poor. Fr Stan is committed and determined to defend the rights of the indigenous people. He will not rest, he will not walk away or allow them to be robbed.
“Fr Stan I thank you for your faith and your determination.”
Picture: Jesuit Fr Stan Swamy, pictured in a screenshot from a video, has been incarcerated in an Indian jail since his 8th October 2020, arrest. 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).