Fr. Stan Swamy SJ

The first person that came to my mind when I saw this quote is Fr. Stan Swamy, an 84 year old Jesuit priest. I was pretty shocked when I read the news of his arrest last year. His crime? He defended the rights of adivasis being exploited in their homeland Jharkhand.

Here’s what he said before his arrest by NIA

It’s heartbreaking to see all that Fr. Stan has gone through after his arrest, denied bail, even denied a sipper and a straw initially to drink water and now down with covid. Though he is in prison, Fr. Stan continues to reach out to fellow prisoners in whatever way he can.

Fr. Stan Swamy is one of the gentlest and kindest men I have ever met. So the entire premise – for anyone who knows him – is entirely ludicrous. Funny even, if it were not so tragic. He has Parkinson’s disease. His hand shakes when he raises a cup of tea to his lips. He speaks so softly, you have to strain to hear him.

He assures his interrogators that he has no connection with the Maoists. He believes in peaceful, non-violent protest. I believe him. Because I know that his integrity is above reproach.

Mari Marcel Thekaekara, The Wire

“You have not allowed the brutal and inhuman system to break you!” says Fr. Cedric Prakash, another Jesuit activist. “Instead, you tell us with such positivity and hope, that even a caged bird sings.”

That last line was echoed by the Bombay Jesuits, who released a rap video in tribute to Fr. Stan entitled “A Caged Bird Can Still Sing”.

Fr. Stan is one of the thousands of Jesuits advocating on behalf of marginalized communities, committed and determined to defend the rights of the indigenous people.

I always wonder if I am strong enough to stand up for the poor, the marginalised, the oppressed. May we have the strength to stand up for ourselves and others.

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