Prison Mission: ‘Stone walls do not a prison make’ (video)

Mgr Allwyn D'Silva, chairman of Prison Ministry India and auxiliary bishop of Mumbai, issued a Message for tomorrow’s Prison Mission day. About 11 million people are in prison around the world, 419,623 in India. Maximilian Kolbe is the patron saint of the prison mission.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) – “Stone walls do not a prison make,” wrote Richard Lovelace in a poem in 1642 when he was jailed in Gatehouse Prison in Westminster. This year it is the theme of this Sunday’s Prison Ministry in India.

Indeed, “stone walls and iron bars may prevent the physical movement of a person, but if they can still love freely and let their thoughts fly free, then in heart, mind and soul, they are free,” writes Mgr Allwyn D'Silva, chairman of Prison Ministry India and auxiliary bishop of Mumbai.

Such a notion is directed first of all to prisoners. "Incarceration cannot lock up one's thoughts, imagination, dreams, visions”, writes the bishop. “If you have the right frame of mind, if your mind is innocent and quiet, then what others see as a prison can be a refuge, a hermitage, an ashram where reformations and revolutions can take place.”

The idea is also a call to Christians. “It is our duty to pray for them, visit them, and help them in their process of release, reformation, rehabilitation and redemption,” notes the prelate, who also urges governments to find alternatives to imprisonment, like suspended sentence, fines, restitution, community service, etc.

In his message dedicated to tomorrow’s Prison Ministry India, Mgr D'Silva quotes the penitential liturgy that Pope Francis celebrated in a youth detention centre in Panama on 25 January. On that occasion, the pontiff said: “I invite you not to build walls, but bridges, to conquer evil with good, offence with forgiveness, and to live in peace with everyone."

Citing the Institute for Criminal Policy Research (ICPR), the prelate notes that, as on 30 September 2018, there were 10,743,619 prisoners worldwide, 419,623 in India.

In a final note for prisoners, he writes: “Dear brothers and sisters in prison, we walk with you, pray for you and support you. God is your stronghold. He will restore your life."

The message ends with an invocation to Saint Maximilian Kolbe, patron saint of Prison Ministry India.