Finding Christ in Photographs of Victims of Extra-judicial Killings in the Philippines Visual-theological Interpretation of Mark 15:16-16:8

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts major in Theological Studies



First Advisor

Fr. Manuel Francisco, SJ, STD


In the Philippines, our media spaces in these past two years have been filled with images of extra-judicial killings. The main question that will be addressed in this thesis is how a photograph of the victims of extrajudicial killings be an allusion to the death of Christ. To address this question we need a twofold process. The first step explores the meaning of the death of Jesus in the Gospel of Mark through biblical narrative analysis. The death of Jesus (Mark 15:16 – 16:8) serves as the climax of the revelation of His identity that at the most devastating moment where everything seems hopeless and lost, Christ paradoxically reveals himself as truly the Son of God who embraces suffering and death as a way to manifest God’s solidarity and love for all. The second, studies the principles of the visual composition in photojournalism which help us “to read” photographs. This thesis focuses on photographs of the victims of extrajudicial killings in the Philippines as the starting point of theological reflection on the death of Jesus. There are sixteen photographs selected from the works of Filipino photojournalists. These photographs run parallel with the seven topics in the story of the death of Jesus: 1) the abuse and mockery by the soldiers; 2) the darkness preceding the death of Jesus; 3) the death cry of Jesus; 4) the rending of the temple veil; 5) the confession of the centurion; 6) the presence of the women at the crucifixion; and 7) the empty tomb. The analysis and theological interpretation of these photographs follows the three levels of reading: literary, figurative, and symbolic reading. v Thus, photographs of extrajudicial killings and the Passion narrative are complementary to one another. A well composed photograph of suffering, with its piercing and evidential power, can be an effective instrument to contemplate on the meaning of Jesus’ suffering and death. At the same time, the story of the suffering and death of Jesus helps the readers to interpret the photographs of extra-judicial killings.

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