A church in America, has, for the last 40 years had a nativity scene with real live animals. Last year, Stormy the cow escaped twice in one day and caused a considerable amount of chaos – and, some of the church members felt, was not treated very well! So this year the church decided to do something completely different. With a global refugee crisis affecting millions of people across the world this Christmas, the church decided to set up a refugee nativity. There’s no available photo of this yet – the photo you have is of a nativity scene in a real refugee camp in Iraq amongst whom are many Christians. So refugees and local people together have set up this nativity scene. The church in America will be basing their nativity on this one.
So this picture shows Mary, Joseph and Jesus in a typical refugee tent. These tents are provided for refugee families in many places around the world – if they’re lucky: many have no shelter at all.
Over 68 million people are refugees this Christmas – a higher number than at any time in modern history. These are people who have fled extreme dangers – relentless bombing, an invading army, gang violence, or other life-threatening circumstances. Those who have been uprooted from their homes often face further struggles on their journey to find safety, including lack of access to clean water, food, shelter, personal security, and health care.
40 million of these refugees are internally-displaced – they have had to flee their homes but are still within their own country.
25.4 million refugees have left their nation of origin in search of some safety, and half of these are children.
A much smaller number – 3.1 million are seeking asylum, claiming protection from another nation because they feel they’ll never be able to return home – it’s too dangerous.
So why a nativity scene to remember this?
Well, if you think about it, Mary and Joseph were internally displaced refugees – victims of the whims of political leaders. Like many other refugee children, Jesus was born ‘on the road’ in very difficult circumstances. And not long afterwards, Jesus and his parents had to flee to another country for fear of their lives – Jesus himself was a refugee.
We have to remember too, that, when he became an adult, Jesus spent his time with people who were on the edge of society – today, Jesus would be with the refugees – the most vulnerable of them all. We have to remember that, whenever we welcome someone in need we welcome Jesus himself. Like the Bethlehem Innkeeper all those years ago, we may not personally, be able to solve the problem, but we have to do what we can. In 2019, whenever we see pictures of refugees, whenever we hear about them, let us see and hear Jesus the refugee – on the road with his parents.