A California church, Claremont United Methodist Church is depicting a nativity scene with Jesus, Mary and Joseph as refugees in cages.
The depiction was aimed at drawing attention to the conditions faced by migrants seeking asylum in the United States, however, the display has stoked debate on the Facebook page of the church’s lead pastor.
On its website, the Claremont United Methodist Church, located in the east of Los Angeles, posted the photo showing Joseph and Mary, in separate cages, facing a cradled baby Jesus in a cage, with Joseph’s arms stretched out towards him.
“We thought about the most famous refugee family in the world, the family of Jesus,” Lead Pastor Karen Clark Ristine told KABC about the scene outside of the church.
“In a time in our country when refugee families seek asylum at our borders and are unwillingly separated from one another, we consider the most well-known refugee family in the world. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, the Holy Family.”
Additional details on the church’s site read: “What if this family sought refuge in our country today? Imagine Joseph and Mary separated at the border and Jesus no older than two taken from his mother and placed behind the fences of a Border Patrol detention center as more than 5,500 children have been the past three years.”
In a Facebook post, Ristine said the display came from the idea of “What if this family sought refuge in our country today?” The post has had over 20,000 share.
Even though the church is known for using nativity scene to speak out on societal issues, this particular display has gone viral and sparked debate on social media and in the Claremont community.
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Facebook users have had divided opinions. While some think the church should not have displayed such scene other groups see it as a laudable idea.
“Shame on you! It is disrespectful in my view to put the King of Kings, Lord of Lords in a cage at any time. Your political views should not be mixed with the birth of our Saviour,” one user wrote.
Another person commented: “Thank you for standing up for those who have no voice. This is not ‘using’ the nativity scene. This is a perfect artistic rendition of Jesus’s teachings. I’m truly grateful.”