PROTESTS ROCK INDIA OVER ARREST OF 84-YEAR-OLD JESUIT PRIEST
Protests are continuing in different parts of India against the arrest and judicial custody of an elderly Jesuit priest, a champion of the rights of adivasis, tribals, and Dalits, Vatican News reported.
Catholic churches in Tamil Nadu, the native state of 84-year-old Father Stan Swamy, offered special masses for his health following a call from Tamil Nadu Bishops Council. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet also scored Swamy’s arrest, saying the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) is one of three “vaguely defined laws” that are “increasingly being used to stifle these voices.”
In a message to the people of his state, Archbishop Antony Poppusamy of Madurai, president of the Tamil Nadu Bishops’ Council, lauded Fr. Swamy for his relentless fight for the right of oppressed indigenous people and dalits. “Upholding the empowerment of the oppressed humanity is the path of Christ Jesus, is the true Christian faith,” the archbishop wrote. “Blaming him with false cases cannot be tolerated in any possible way,” he stressed.
Meanwhile, in the eastern state of Jharkhand, where Fr. Swamy works, people of all walks of life and of some political affiliations held a “justice rally” on Oct. 18 demanding the immediate release of Fr. Swamy and withdrawal of all charges against him saying, “he was falsely framed for working for the welfare of the oppressed.” A protest march in Jharkhand capital, Ranchi, on Oct. 17, handed over a memorandum to the governor’s office demanding the release of the priest and withdrawal of all false charges against him. Days earlier, more than 1,000 Christians, including priests and nuns, formed a five-kilometer long human chain in Ranchi, demanding justice for and the release of the jailed priest.