By ZENIT Staff

The Federation of Asian Bishops Conference (FABC) has called for the release of Fr. Stan Swamy, who was arrested in his home in Ranchi, the capital of Jharkhand State in eastern India, on October 8th. The 83-year-old priest is widely known as the “Friend of the Indigenous People”.

The arrest was ordered by the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), an Agency that deals with the fight against terrorism.  A special court of the NIA on October 23, rejected the request for bail for Jesuit Father Stanislaus Lourduswamy (commonly known as Fr. Stan Swamy), activist for the rights of tribals, arrested following his alleged involvement in the activities of the Maoist rebels and in violent riots in 2018 in Maharashtra. Currently under judicial custody, had asked for bail for health reasons. He is now being held in the quarantine unit at Taloja prison, near Mumbai.

FABC, in a letter signed by their president, Cardinal Charles Bo. SDB, said “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 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.”

Following is the full letter:

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.

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