“I may suffer, perhaps even die very soon if the deterioration of my condition continues. But whatever happens I want to be able to be among my people.”
– Fr Stan Swamy SJ, during his bail hearing last May 22
Our hearts were filled with grief when we learned that Fr Stan Swamy SJ, a Jesuit priest in India, passed away on July 5, 2021. For 50 years, he worked tirelessly for poor and marginalized communities of India. Fr Stan fought for the recognition of the rights of the Adivasis, documenting the abuse of power against Indigenous youth and those falsely imprisoned for defending their rights.
Fr Stan was incarcerated for 9 months. He suffered from Parkinson’s disease and his health continued to deteriorate while in prison. In spite of his health challenges, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) special sessions court refused to grant him bail.
Fr Stan only wanted to be with the people he served. During a bail hearing in May, he declared this desire to the court: “During these eight months, there has been a slow but steady regression of every function of my body. The Taloja prison has brought me to a condition where I am unable to write or walk on my own. I am asking you to consider why and how this deterioration of my health has occurred. I may suffer, perhaps even die very soon if the deterioration of my condition continues. But whatever happens I want to be able to be among my people.”
He was finally transferred to a hospital after contracting COVID-19.
Fr Stan’s life and death has inspired a new generation of advocates who continue to fight for truth and justice. These are men and women emboldened by the strength and courage Fr Stan showed. They will stand up for the truth, fight for the marginalized and will continue to dedicate their lives in the pursuit of a just and equal society.
Canadian Jesuits International (CJI) is grateful to our friends and supporters who joined us in sending Fr Stan a birthday card last April through the Office of the Indian High Commissioner in Ottawa. Our collective effort not only raised awareness for his unjust incarceration, but it reminded the Indian government that Fr Stan was not alone in his fight for the recognition of the rights of the most marginalized people in society.
As we commemorate the life of Fr Stan, let us not forget the 15 other human rights defenders who have been detained for the same reason as Fr Stan and continue to languish in prison while waiting for justice to be served.
We are grateful to Fr Stan for inspiring us all to continue to work for justice and peace.
Tributes to Fr Stan:
Fr Erik Oland’s letters to the Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs:
Updates on Fr Stan:
Feb 10 – The 12 Provincials of the Conference of Jesuit Provincials in Latin America and the Caribbean (CPAL) sends letter to their Embassies and/or Consulates requesting the release of Fr. Stan and the unjustly detained human rights defenders