Philippine Bible scholars expressed their “indignation” over what they described as the “culture of violence and impunity” with the rising number of incidents of killings in the country.
“How can we celebrate Christmas, the birth of our Lord Jesus, in the midst of death and the utter disregard for human life?” read a statement from the Catholic Biblical Association of the Philippines.
“If we are not angry with the killings, if we are not even disturbed with the recent, brutal murders of lawyers, doctors, human rights advocates, and the poor people … then we do not really love Jesus in words and deeds,” added the statement.
The Bible scholars cited in particular the killing of a mother and son in the province of Tarlac days before Christmas by a police officer.
“We worship God with our lips, but our hearts are far from Him. We are hypocrites!” said the organization of Scriptures experts.
“Indeed, we are being hypocrites when we celebrate Christmas, the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, while ignoring and not valuing His commands,” they added.
“Those who do not condemn the killings are like those who wanted to kill Jesus as a baby and as an adult,” added the group’s statement.
They said that Christmas is about the birth of Jesus “who gave his life so that others may live.”
“Killing is against the will of our Lord Jesus who promised life not death: ‘The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly,’” added the group’s statement.
The group said “culture of violence and impunity” has “fractured our national psyche and damaged our moral sense of right and wrong.”
“We denounce this sin; we demand justice for the victims of these killings; we plead for respect for life, respect for human dignity and rights, respect for each and every one; we commit ourselves to the active and authentic restoration of God’s reign in our world,” added the scholars’ statement.
They said that “If we love Jesus, we will obey God’s commands,” including not killing.
“Unfortunately, many would claim to have a relationship with Jesus, but do not obey his commands,” read the group’s statement.
“Loving Jesus means giving importance to the things and people that are important to Him,” they said. “We know that something and someone is important to us when we get frustrated or angry when it is violated.”
“Christians, those who professed to love Jesus, ought to be the first ones to cry out, ‘Stop the Killings!’ for this is against the will of their Master,” said the scholars.
A United Nations report on the Philippines’ “drug war” in June noted that there had been “near impunity” for extrajudicial killings in the country.
It added that there was a risk rhetoric by the highest officials the land that had emboldened police to behave as though they have “permission to kill.”
The Philippine National Police has listed 7,884 deaths during police operations from July 1, 2016, to August 31, 2020.
Human rights groups, however, provide a much larger estimate, pegging the total number of fatalities in the “drug war” at 27,000 to include victims of vigilante-style killings.