Jesuit Fr. Swamy: A caged bird sings for his birthday in prison. As Father Stan Swamy celebrates his 84th birthday in an Indian prison cell, numerous Church leaders voice calls for his release, with his fellow Jesuits saying “a caged bird still can sing.”
It was surely not how he expected to spend his 84th birthday on Monday, 26 April. After over 6 months, Fr. Stan Swamy, SJ, an Indian priest with Parkinson’s disease, remains behind bars in a Mumbai prison.
He was arrested on 8 October last year in Ranchi. His crime? Alleged links with Maoist rebels who are said to be behind a 2018 riot in Maharashtra state. His plea? Not guilty. He said before his arrest that he had never even been to Bhima Koregaon village, where the riots took place.
Fr. Stan has spent his life serving the indigenous peoples of Jharkhand and elsewhere, standing up for their rights and speaking out on their behalf.
Now, 200 days later and despite numerous appeals for his release on bail for health grounds, apart from innocence, Fr. Stan remains locked up. One of his fellow Jesuits and social activists, Fr. Cedric Prakash, wrote an open letter to Fr. Stan, and recalled his life of mission and service.
“We continue to marvel at your unflinching commitment to the cause of justice,” said Fr. Cedric. “Over the years you have shown us all what it means to be a person for others, rooted in the non-negotiable faith-justice mandate.” He added that Fr. Stan lived his evangelical vow of poverty to the full and that he has taught countless people the true meaning of solidarity.
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