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Sadness and anger at the death of Fr Stan Swamy SJ

News of the death in prison of Fr Stan Swamy SJ, an Indian human rights activist, has occasioned great sadness and not a little anger, among his friends and fellow-Jesuits but also among lawyers, writers, politicians and other activists in India and beyond.

On Jesuits.global, the communications website of the Jesuit Curia in Rome, the simple announcement of Fr Swamy’s death reads as follows:

Fr. Stan Swamy, 84, a leading advocate for adivasis and marginalised people in India, died in a Mumbai hospital on Monday 5 July. He was unjustly accused and imprisoned last October and, despite his age and frail health, was consistently denied bail. Let us pray for him; let us give thanks for his life given to the service of the poor.

Fr Swamy had been in a weak condition in Taloja prison in Mumbai, due to his advanced Parkinson’s disease. In prison he then contracted Covid-19, which necessitated immediate hospital treatment. Following a court order at the end of May he was moved from Taloja to the Holy Family Hospital, where he was later brought to an intensive care unit. As his condition deteriorated he was put on life support. He went into cardiac arrest on 3 July, and he passed away at 1.30 pm on Monday 5 July.

Xavier Jeyaraj SJ of the Social Justice and Ecology Secretariat in Rome wrote an appreciation of Fr Swamy on the secretariat website:

Stan was truly a prophet who lived his life fully for others particularly the adivasis, dalits and other marginalized communities. While in prison he said, “A caged bird can still sing” and sowed ‘hope’ in the hearts of everyone. Today he is a liberated bird who sings from heaven calling each of us to keep alive that hope for true liberation from injustice, oppression and denial of rights.

Stan became a conscience keeper and awakened the hope in everyone. We remember and thank all those who prayed, campaigned and advocated for him and for all others in similar cases who are denied of their human dignity and rights.

We sincerely thank God for the life of Fr. Stan Swamy, who broke himself and suffered so that others may have life, life in abundance. We are confident that he will ‘not be a silent spectator even from heaven’. He will continue to stand with each one of us to help us ‘to speak truth to power’ and to dedicate our lives for the poor and marginalized.

May God accompany and help live our lives fully and, following the example of Stan, to stand with the marginalized and the poor in our quest for justice, equality and freedom!

Let us join together to thank God for the life of Stan!

Photo by Khetfield59 (CC BY-SA 4.0)