(Source: Novena/Vatican News/UCA News)
The Catholic Church in Asia has expressed its closeness and solidarity with arrested Indian Jesuit priest Father Stan Swamy and all who support the rights of Indigenous and marginalised people, UCA News reported.
“It is with great shock and agony the FABC heard of the arrest of the 83-year-old Father Swamy and his incarceration and we are surprised at the charges brought against him,” said in a statement Cardinal Charles Bo, Archbishop of Yangon and president of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC).
“The arrest and cold-hearted incarceration of Father Swamy reminds us of the treatment meted out to Mahatma Gandhi when he stood up for the rights of the Indian people,” the cardinal said in his appeal on Monday.
He said Father Swamy was following Gandhi’s non-violent path to realise his dream: “The arrest is symptomatic of the treatment meted out to indigenous people in various parts of Asia.”
The National Investigation Agency (NIA), the federal unit that is charged with anti-terrorism activities, arrested Father Swamy on October 8 at Bagaicha, a Jesuit social action centre for Indigenous rights in the outskirts of Ranchi, the capital of Jharkhand state.
The agency charged the elderly priest with sedition and for his links with an outlawed Maoist group, which was behind the 2018 Bhima Koregaon violence case in Maharashtra state. Father Swamy refutes the allegations and says he has never been to Bhima Koregaon.
The day after his arrest, a special NIA court in Mumbai, Maharashtra state, remanded him in judicial custody until October 23.
A bail plea on health grounds for the ailing priest was rejected by the court on October 23, as it extended his remand by another two weeks until November 5. The frail and ailing priest suffers from Parkinson’s disease and hearing loss.
As part of his social activism, Father Swamy has been working to secure the release of young tribal activists fighting for their ancestral land rights and against forced displacement.
They have been arrested and jailed as undertrials, accused of being members of Maoist groups engaged in violence in Jharkhand.
According to the Asian Bishops’ president, the Asian market economy and its promoters have treated Indigenous communities with a colonial mentality, making them environmental refugees. Yet, it is the Indigenous communities who protect nature and restore it to the world.
Cardinal Bo urged the relevant authorities to acknowledge the role Indigenous people play in the welfare of the world and release their people and those who support them, such as Father Swamy.
The cardinal hoped the India’s leaders “will show sagacity and magnanimity in appreciating the services of Father Swamy and other Indigenous people’s leaders, releasing them as free citizens of India.”
“Colonization destroyed the Indigenous; nation-states disenfranchised them. Thousands have perished in the ecocide”
Full text of Cardinal Bo’s appeal for Fr. Swamy
It is with great shock and agony, the FABC heard of the arrest of the 83-year-old Fr Stan Swamy and his incarceration. We are surprised at the charges brought against him. We stand in solidarity with Fr. Stan Swamy and all who support the rights of the indigenous people.
The media in India has expressed deep shock over the arrest of Fr Stan Swamy, who for three decades lived among the most deprived indigenous people of India.
The arrest and cold-hearted incarceration of Fr Stan Swamy reminds us of the treatment meted out to Mahatma Gandhi when he stood up for the rights of the Indian people.
The colonial British government was too eager to incarcerate him for the ‘crime’ of asking for the dignity of his people. It was his dream that the least of India should be the central concern of a free India. Fr Stan Swamy was following Gandhi’s nonviolent path to realize his dream.
The arrest is symptomatic of the treatment meted out to indigenous people in various parts of Asia.
From the shores of South China Sea to the central parts of India, is a vast land once the homeland of indigenous people.
Colonization destroyed them; nation-states disenfranchised them. Thousands have perished in the ecocide – killing of biosphere.
Asian market economy and its enablers have treated the indigenous communities with a colonial mentality – making them environmental refugees. The world is indebted to the indigenous communities for protecting Nature and giving it to the world. The forests and biosphere where the indigenous people lived proved to be the “lungs of the world”.
When Asian governments choose to evict the indigenous people and offer their lands for corporate gain, they are opting to infect the lungs of the world. This is ecological Covid. Pope Francis has called for protecting the precious ‘lungs’ like Amazon, Congo, and Asian forests.
Humanists like Fr Stan Swamy tried to save the world from the ecocide. We urge the concerned authorities to acknowledge the role the indigenous people play for the welfare of the world and release their people and those who support them.
India is a great nation, the land of the Mahatma, and the spiritual mother of the whole of the East. We do hope its leaders will show sagacity and magnanimity in appreciating the services of Fr Stan Swamy and other indigenous people’s leaders, releasing them as free citizens of India.