Engaging Civil Authorities in Building an Inclusive and Life-Giving Society: A Call for Lasallians to Make a Stand Against the Culture of Death
By Br. Jose Mari Jimenez
As a Catholic and a Filipino, I am deeply disturbed by the spate of killings that have attended this administration’s pronouncements regarding its anti-crime and illegal-drugs campaign. Media reports indicate that from 10 May to 15 July 2016, cases of drug and crime-related killings have risen to 408* casualties and continue to rise. While these figures are alarming in themselves, what troubles me even more as an educator is the absence of a significant public outcry against the blatant contempt for the human life and the rule of law that these extra-judicial killings represent.
This disregard for the inalienable value of human life and the public silence that gives tacit support for such disregard does not bode well for the vision of a just and humane society enshrined in our Constitution. What these extrajudicial killings demonstrate is how desperate many people have become in the face of the issues of drugs and criminality. The approval of so-called solutions that deny the sanctity of human life and respect for each person’s right to due process amounts to a crisis of faith in the possibility of governing our nation by reason and the rule of law. These lethal acts and the attitudes that ground them undermine the fundamental respect for human dignity and the obligations of human solidarity which are the foundation of social life. We need to remind everyone that if we want a just and peaceful society, our means must partake of our ends. You cannot build a culture that respects life while relying principally on the instruments of death.
It is appropriate to recall here the much publicized pronouncement of Pope Francis on 21 February 2016 when he called for the abolition of the death penalty. “The commandment ‘You shall not kill’ has absolute value and applies to both the innocent and the guilty…. It must not be forgotten that the inviolable and God-given right to life also belongs to the criminal.” Behind these prophetic words is the vision of a God who refuses to give up on anyone, a God whose mercy embraces all without distinction. As Christians and Catholics, we give witness to the truth about God when we defend the right to life as unconditional. We give witness to the mercy we have received in Christ when we seek to rehabilitate rather than execute wrongdoers.
Furthermore, it is a mistake to believe that we can create a peaceful society by denying those suspected of wrongdoing their fundamental rights to life and to due legal process. The doctrine of the common good rejects any notion that the good of the majority may be attained by violating the fundamental rights of any member of society. It is a mistake to think the respect for the dignity of each individual and the pursuit of the common good are in competition or opposed to one another; indeed protecting and promoting the rights and welfare of each individual is constitutive of the common good. What is needed to create a better society is that all cooperate in insuring the promotion of each one’s dignity, rights and responsibilities without exception (Solicitude Rei Socialis 1980).
Thus, while we resonate with our government’s desire to address in a resolute way the problems of crime, drug-addiction and corruption, we need to insure that this is done within the framework of the law and the principles of human dignity and the common good enshrined in both our Constitution and in Catholic Social Teaching. To this end, our schools should critically engage civil authorities to insure that effective solutions to these social ills be pursued in the just and right way.
I urge our Lasallian educational communities — Brothers, faculty, students, personnel parents and alumni — to take up this urgent task. We need to engage civil authorities, not as adversaries, but as partners in building communities that reflect the values of truth, justice, freedom, love, equality and peace enshrined in our Constitution. In our various educational spaces, let us teach young people to reflect critically and equip them with the values and skills they need to help create a society that upholds human dignity, solidarity and the common good. Let us embed these three principles in our own school cultures, in our curricula, indeed in the understanding of the professions we educate our students towards. Furthermore, let us use the resources and influence of our schools to help create more life-giving conditions for those disadvantaged communities within our reach where often, the young and the poor become vulnerable to the machinations of corrupt and criminal elements.
Let us not allow violence to rule us but in every circumstance be vigilant and zealous in upholding the dignity and rights of all as befits responsible citizens and followers of Christ.
Br. Jose Mari Jimenez FSC
President, De La Salle Philippines
Auxiliary Visitor, De La Salle Brothers — Philippines