Bangkok (Agenzia Fides) - "It is with great shock and great anguish that the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences (FABC) learned of the arrest of Father Stanislaus Lourduswamy SI, 83, and his incarceration. We are surprised by the accusations made against him. We stand in solidarity with Father Stan Swamy and all who support the rights of the indigenous people": this is stated in a note released today, October 26, by the FABC and sent to Agenzia Fides, recalling the story of Indian Jesuit priest Father Stanislaus Lourduswamy, (known as Fr Stan Swamy), accused of sedition and complicity with Maoist rebel groups and arrested for these reasons.
According to his confreres and Church leaders in India, these are absurd accusations against a man who dedicated his life to the social advancement of the indigenous and tribal populations of India. On 23 October a special court of the National Investigation Agency rejected the Jesuit's request for bail (see Fides, 9, 20 and 24/10/2020).
The note continues: "The mass media in India expressed deep shock at the arrest of Fr Stan Swamy, who for three decades lived among the poorest indigenous people in India. The arrest and merciless incarceration of Father Stan Swamy remind us of the treatment of Mahatma Gandhi when he fought for the rights of the Indian people. The British colonial government was too anxious to jail him for the 'crime' of demanding the dignity of its people. His dream was for the smallest of India to be the central concern of a free India. Father Stan Swamy was following Gandhi's non-violent path to realize his dream".
"The arrest - reads the text - is symptomatic of the treatment meted out to indigenous people in various parts of Asia. The one which goes from the shores of the South China Sea to the central parts of India is a vast land that was once home to the indigenous people. Colonization destroyed them; the national states deprived them of civil rights. Thousands of people died as a result of ecocide, and the destruction of the biosphere".
The FABC stand up to defend these populations: "The market economy, which developed on the Asian continent, and its favorable factors, treated indigenous communities with a colonial mentality, making them 'environmental refugees'. The world is indebted to the indigenous communities who protected nature and gave it to the world. The forests and the biosphere in which the indigenous 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 asked to protect precious 'lungs' such as the Amazon, Congo and the forests of Asia".
The Bishops acknowledge that "humanists like Father 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" . Hence an appeal to India, "great nation, land of Mahatma and spiritual mother of all the East". " We do hope its 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", concludes the text, signed, on behalf of the Bishops of Asia, by Cardinal Charles Bo, FABC president. (PA) (Agenzia Fides, 26/10/2020)