Human rights campaigner, Father Stan Swamy, dies after seven months in Indian prison

July 5, 2021

Father Stan Swamy passed away today at Holy Name Hospital in New Delhi, aged 84.

Father Stan was a Jesuit priest who dedicated his life to the marginalised. He was known in India for his tireless advocacy of the land rights of Adivasi and Dalit communities against multi-national companies and mining businesses.

The Jesuit Provincial of India, Dr Stanislaus D’Souza, said: “With a deep sense of pain, anguish and hope we have surrendered Father Stan Swamy, aged 84, to his eternal abode.”

Father Stan was a long-term sufferer of Parkinson’s disease, and his imprisonment by the Indian authorities in October 2020 made his condition worse. He was arrested by the National Investigation Agency of India on fictitious charges about his advocacy work being linked to Maoist terrorism. Following his arrest, he spent seven months in prison before being admitted to hospital in late May by the Bombay High Court. He remained in hospital in a critical condition after testing positive for COVID-19.

Father Stan’s unjust treatment brought about a worldwide campaign from the Jesuit community and beyond as people grew concerned for the brave but fragile 84-year-old. He was imprisoned alongside 15 other human rights activists on the same charges and the campaign for their release continues.

From October 2020, Jesuit Missions UK has campaigned for Father Stan’s release. Various campaigning actions were taken, including two protests outside the High Commission of India in London, and encouraging supporters across the UK to write letters to their MPs. Over 1,000 birthday cards were sent to the Jesuit Missions office for Father Stan.

As a result of the campaign, questions were raised in the House of Commons, a letter was sent from the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office to counterparts in India, and a letter highlighting the injustice was also published in The Telegraph.

Father Stan’s case has shed light on the broken justice system of India and the government’s dangerous reaction to those wishing to speak freely on social issues.

In the wake of Father Stan’s death, Dr Stanislaus D’Souza said: “The Society of Jesus at this moment recommits itself to take forward the legacy of Father Stan in its mission of Justice and Reconciliation”.

Father Damian Howard, Provincial Superior of the British Jesuits, said: “The Jesuits in Britain are deeply saddened by the death of Father Stan Swamy. He was a Jesuit who went where the need was greatest. His fidelity to his mission right to the end is his last expression of service to the poor whose rights he defended for so long. It is now for us to continue to stand against injustices all over the world as he did.”

Your prayers for the repose of Father Stan's soul are appreciated at this time.

May he rest in peace and rise in glory.

Find out more about the work of Jesuit Missions UK by clicking here.

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