Church unveils nativity scene depicting holy family as caged refugees

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(CBS News) – A Methodist church in California has unveiled a nativity scene depicting Jesus, Mary and Joseph as refugees in cages. CBS Los Angeles reports the display at the Claremont United Methodist Church is stoking debate related to the Trump administration’s separation policies at the U.S. southern border.

The display shows classic nativity figurines of Joseph and Mary in cages on either side of a cage containing the manger of Jesus. The Rev. Karen Clark Ristine, who says she was “stirred to tears” by the depiction, says the church uses its annual nativity scene to tackle a societal issue, such as the homeless population of Southern California.

In a statement posted on Facebook, Ristine recounted the Bible’s story of Jesus, Mary and Joseph.

Ristine then asked: “”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. Jesus grew up to teach us kindness and mercy and a radical welcome of all people.”

Ristine says a more traditional nativity scene is displayed inside the church, which serves a congregation of about 300 people.

The Trump administration faced broad criticism for separating children from their families while they were detained at the southern border before the president ordered an end to the practice in 2018.

The church has displayed controversial nativity scenes in the past. In 2014, their nativity scene depicted a homeless Virgin Mary at a bus stop with a newborn Baby Jesus swaddled in burlap. Displays in previous years have garnered national attention and some have been vandalized, like the 2011 display of both a heterosexual and gay couple. In 2013, the display depicted Trayvon Martin in the manger.

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