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 the sub-continent and beyond. Former Labour Party minister Eamonn Gilmore tweeted: ‘I am very saddened to hear that Fr Stan Swamy has passed away; a defender of indigenous people’s rights’.
On jesuitsglobal, the communications website of the Jesuit Curia in Rome, the simple announcement of Fr Swamy’s death read 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 1.30pm 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: ‘Fr Swamy was truly a prophet, who lived his life fully for others, particularly the adivasis, dalits and other marginalised 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.
‘Swamy became a conscience keeper and awakened the hope in everyone he encountered. Let us all remember others in similar cases who are denied their human dignity and rights.
‘Fr Stan Swamy, who broke himself and suffered so that others may have life, life in abundance, was a wonderful minister of the Gospel. The Jesuit community expressed with confidence that he will “not be a silent spectator, even from Heaven”. That 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 marginalised.
‘May God accompany and help live our lives fully and, following the example of Stan, to stand with the marginalised and the poor in our quest for justice, equality and freedom!’
JESUS HELP ME
Jesus, help me. In every need, let me come to you with humble trust saying ‘Jesus, help me’. In all my doubts, perplexities and temptations, Jesus, help me.
In hours of loneliness, weariness and trials, Jesus, help me. In failure of my plans and hopes, in disappointments, troubles and sorrows, Jesus, help me.
When others fail me, and Your Grace alone can assist me, Jesus, help me. When I throw myself on your tender love as a Father and Saviour, Jesus, help me.
When my heart is cast down by failure at seeing no good come from my efforts, Jesus, help me. When I feel impatient and my cross irritates, Jesus, help me.
When I am ill and my head and hands cannot work and I am lonely, Jesus, help me. Always, always, in spite of weakness, falls and shortcomings of every kind, Jesus, help me. And never forsake me.