National Justice Day : Stan Swamy is setting the Church is on Fire

National Justice Day : Stan Swamy is setting the Church is on Fire
National Justice Day at Bhopal

“My country is on fire, there is none to put it out,” he said.

Even as he lamented, he was perhaps unaware of another kind of fire that has begun smouldering within the Catholic Church in India. Stanislaus Lourdaswamy’s death has brought the Church to a crossroads. The fire to call out injustice and spread fraternity in a more tangible way !

The death of Fr Stan Swamy was “custodial murder”, said Jesuit educationist Father Tomy Nishaant, and stated that  many social and human right activists and poor people  who had been have wrongly jailed in India and they were also are seeking justice.

Father Nishaant,  was addressing about a hundred students and staff of St Xavier’s College of Management & Technology (SXCMT), in  Patna, Bihar state on  National Justice Day.  He also expressed the feeling of several citizens, who attended protests and online condolence meetings , saying that he did not feel he was doing enough, being hemmed in by the responsibilities of running an institution.

Tomy Nishaant SJ (left) SXCMT, Patna

Even the preamble of the Constitution, which outlines social, economic and political justice as its philosophy and objectives was not being practised, Fr Nishaant said.

He ended with an emotional lament in Hindi: My country is on fire, there is none to put it out!

Catholic institutions across India marked National Justice Day on Wednesday, paying homage to Father Stan Swamy who died in custody while awaiting bail in a terrorism case. The day also marks a pledge by the Jesuits  to carry forward the legacy of the  tribal rights activist.

In New Delhi, the national capital, several events were held attended by people of all faiths and persuasions. “During his bail plea, Stan didn’t ask for mercy. He asked for his right, which was bail,” Delhi University professor Apoorvanand said at a public meeting at the Sacred Heart Cathedral in the capital.

Activist and former bureaucrat Harsh Mander, who participated at a vigil in New Delhi, told a newspaper  “It is a sad commentary on where we have reached as a republic when someone who has spent his life in the service of the people — not by providing for their needs but speaking out on their behalf — someone who is a national hero, should die this way.”

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“And we have witnessed the sheer cruelty of actors within the criminal justice system… It was not jail authorities but prisoners who cared for him like a father,” he added.

In Calcutta, West Bengal State,  a prayer service for Fr Stan was held at the Archbishop’s House.

 At the Archbishop’s House, Father Gomes urged people to stand up for equality and justice in small ways in the parishes.

“Anyone in need is our neighbour and, as Christians, we will stand with all who are wronged, treated unequally and unjustly. Thank you, Father Stan, for your inspiration,” said Father Dominic Gomes, the vicar general of the archdiocese of Calcutta, who conducted the prayer at the Archbishop’s House.

“It is applicable not only on public platforms, but that we all in our small and humble ways make a difference to the lives of those around us,” he said.

Father Gomes later told media persons  that it was no longer enough to be “onlookers or silent observers”.

 Prayers for “justice and peace” were held in churches across Calcutta at 6pm. The Archbishop of Calcutta, Thomas D’Souza, attended the prayer at Morning Star College in Barrackpore.

At St Xavier’s College and  St Xavier’s Collegiate Schoolheld a joint prayer service. Priests, college staff and members of St Xavier’s College (Calcutta) Alumni Association and Alumnorum Societas (St Xavier’s School Old Boys’ Association) joined.

Father Thamacin Arulappan, the principal of St Xavier’s Collegiate School, and Father Jeyaraj Veluswamy, rector, facilitated the service.

Father Dominic Savio, the principal of St Xavier’s College, said Father Stan as a “crusader of peace”. He quoted Father Stanislaus D’Souza : “It (Father Stan’s death) is an opportunity for us to pause, ponder and proceed boldly on our way.”

The Catholic Association of Bengal held a service at Prabhu Jessu Girja, where “candles of hope were lit”.  “We pray that many other Stan Swamys are born and we carry forward what he left behind,” said Angelina Mantosh Jasnani, the president of the association.

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In Jharkhand State, the late Father Stan’s adopted home, social organisations joined churches and Jesuit institutions in observing the day across the state.

De Nobili Dhanbad

In the town  Jamshedpur, nearly 1,000 priests, nuns, sympathisers and rights defenders took part in a silent protest with lighted candles and placards at various Jesuit institutions.

 “The death of Fr Stan is not an end in itself but an opportunity to reaffirm our faith in our nation’s Constitution and awaken the consciousness of the masses,” said Fr Gerald D’Souza, the administrator at Loyola High School in Jamshedpur.

“Justice is truth in action; One voice can be muffled not millions; A right delayed is a right denied; Our constitution begins with we the people and not us the government.”

Such slogans  were raised by  a group of about  50 people including the staff of De Nobili School, Bhuli in a half hour programme held outside the main gate as part of a nationwide programme organised as per the call of Jesuit Provincial of South Asia and the  Jesuit Conference of India.

The  De Nobili Group of Schools situated at Digwadih, CMRI, Bhuli, Maithon, Mugma, Gomoh, Koradih, Sijua and Chandrapura are operated by the Society of Jesus.

Father Sebastian Puthepura, Principal of De Nobili School Bhuli said,” Stan’s death is not an end; it is yet another moment of awakening in our journey to affirm our faith in the constitution of our country.”

In Dindigul, Tamil Nadu state, Father Stan’s ashes were carried in an urn for multiple events, including a church service, beginning at Beschi Illam where he had joined the Jesuits in 1957.

Later in the day, a memorial service was held at St Joseph’s Cathedral, Dindigul, followed by a public event outside the church where political leaders and local personalities paid their respects.

In Bhubaneswar, capital of Odisha state, about 45 people led by Archbishop John Barwa of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar attended a solidarity prayer at St Vincent’s Pro-Cathedral Parish. They held lighted candles for 45 minutes from 6 pm as they paid homage to the Jesuit priest.

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Father Swamy’s death “sparked national outrage and shock from individuals, civil society organizations, dioceses and religious congregations all over the country,” the Archbishop John said.

In Goa, memorials and  protest meetings were held in several places including St. Alex Church in Calangute, Our Lady of Immaculate Conception Church in Panjim, Holy Spirit Church in Margao, and Our Lady of Snows Church, Rachol.

News also comes from Karnataka where a series of events were held.

Jerald D’Souza, director of St Joseph’s College of Law who helped organise an event in Bangalore in Father Stan’s memory, told media persons: “Some ask, why should a priest do any work besides pious or religious practices? They (those who ask this question) fail to see the larger issues with democracy and the rule of law that affect the whole system.

In the North-eastern part of India, several communities joined in the National Justice Day observations.

In Tripura, some  60 priests and nuns,  joined Bishop Lumon Monteiro of Agartala to observe the day. “We pledge to carry forward Father Swamy’s legacy,” the Bishop said while addressing the gathering at St Francis Xavier Cathedral in Agartala.

In Guwahati, Assam State,  Archbishop John Moolachera of Guwahati, chairman of the Assam Christian Forum, joined members of the Legal Cell and other activists to observe the day at the Peace Centre.

In Madhya Pradesh,  Christian communities and supporters in the cities of Bhopal and Indore held vigils and prayers. Laity, priests and religious gathered at  St Francis of Assisi Cathedral in Indore and  Assumption Church in Bhopal for an evening of prayer and solidarity with those facing injustice.

[compiled from multiple sources by Newsnet Desk]

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