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Fr Stan Swamy SJ – ‘A caged bird can still sing’

Fr Stan Swamy, the Indian Jesuit and human rights defender of tribal and indigenous communities, released a letter on 15 January 2021, to mark his 100 days in prison under false charges. In the letter, he tells his Jesuit brothers of his solidarity with the 15 other human rights defenders who are also falsely imprisoned and the plight of thousands of Indians who have spoken against the government and have been put in prison without trial.

In the letter from prison, Fr Stan said:

“I deeply appreciate the overwhelming solidarity expressed by many during these past 100 days behind the bars. At times, news of such solidarity has given me immense strength and courage, especially when the only thing certain in prison is uncertainty. Life here is on a day-to-day basis.

On the other hand, we 16 co-accused have not been able to meet each other, despite being in the same jail. But we will still sing in chorus. A caged bird can still sing.”

Fr Swamy spoke of gaining strength from thousands of others known as ‘undertrials’ who are still waiting for their trials to begin. He said:

“Many of such poor undertrials don’t know what charges have been put on them, have not seen their charge sheet and just remain in prison for years without any legal or other assistance.

Overall, almost all undertrials are compelled to live to a bare minimum, whether rich or poor. This brings in a sense of brotherhood and communitarianism where reaching out to each other is possible even in this adversity.”

Fr Stan also released a New Year message in an earlier correspondence which remains as relevant as ever. He wrote:

May the New Year
Bring a new awakening
To all of us.

May the new awakening
Light a new flame
In our hearts.

May the new flame
Help us discern truth from untruth
And hold fast to truth.

May Truth embolden us
To speak truth to power
And be ready to pay the price.

Join the #StandwithStan campaign seeking the release of all sixteen human rights defenders. See the Social Justice and Ecology Secretariat (SJES) Facebook page » and SJES Twitter page ».