California church Nativity depicts Jesus, Mary and Joseph as caged refugees(7 images)
A Los Angeles Area's church's Nativity scene depicts Joseph, Mary and the baby Jesus as refugees in cages.
Rev. Karen Clark Ristine said the display is intended to ake a theological statement describing Jesus, Mary and Joseph as the "most well-known refugee family in the world."
"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," Ristine said.
The church has faced both criticism and support online and has a traditional Nativity scene in which the family is reunited inside the building.
Claremont United Methodist Church's Nativity scene depicts a baby Jesus, Mary and Joseph in separate cages at the U.S.-Mexico border. Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo
In the biblical story, Joseph and Mary fled Israel to Egypt to escape King Herod's decree that all baby boys be killed and were given refuge in a manger after being denied a place to stay at every other turn. Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo
Rev. Karen Clark Ristine said the display sought to make a theological statement describing Jesus, Mary and Joseph as the "most well-known refugee family in the world" and questioning what would happen if they sought refuge in the United States today. Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo
"We see this as, in some ways, the Holy Family standing in for the nameless families," said the Rev. Karen Clark Ristine, the lead pastor at Claremont United Methodist Church told UPI. "We've heard of their plight; we've seen how these asylum seekers have been greeted and treated. We wanted the Holy Family to stand in for those nameless people because they also were refugees." Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo
The powerful image drew a range of comments -- some supportive for the church making the traditional Christmas story relevant to the immigration issue, and some critical that fault Ristine for merging politics. Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo
Ristine said Joseph, Mary and the baby Jesus are reunited inside the church in a conventional Nativity scene. Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo
The display at the Methodist church spurred new debate over the Trump administration's immigration policy in general, and its practice of separating migrant families at the border for a time in 2017 and 2018. Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo