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Wyandanch church Nativity scene celebrates holy family, asylum-seekers

Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal's Nativity scene will celebrate all refugees seeking asylum, in addition to Jesus, Mary and Joseph.

Richard Koubek, a parishioner at Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal Roman Catholic Church in Wyandanch, spoke Sunday about the parallels between today’s refugees and Jesus' family 2,000 years ago. (Credit: Newsday / Vera Chinese)

A holiday display at a Wyandanch church is bringing attention to a refugee family that fled its homeland to escape its vengeful ruler.

It is the holy family.

Under a banner reading “Jesus the Global Refugee,” the Nativity scene at Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal Roman Catholic Church will celebrate not only Jesus, Mary and Joseph, but all refugees seeking asylum across the globe. The creche was dedicated on Sunday during a brief ceremony attended by about two dozen people and featuring a Spanish reading of the flight into Egypt from the Gospel of Matthew.

Church leaders drew parallels between the holy family — who 2,000 years ago fled Israel to escape King Herod who wanted to kill Jesus — and those escaping gang violence and political instability in Central American countries.

“It’s almost the same story, over and over again,” said Sandy Thomas of Wheatley Heights, chairwoman of the church’s Roundtable for the Common Good Committee. “This church has always been an advocate for Christian thinking and Catholic social justice. It only stands to reason that we would express our concern about the plight of refugees.”

The church’s congregation is about 70 percent Latino, parishioner Richard Koubek of Dix Hills said during a brief ceremony in between two masses — one in English and one in Spanish. Calling asylum a “global human right,” Koubek urged compassion for those seeking it at the U.S.-Mexico border.

“They’re simply doing what Jesus, Mary and Joseph had to do 2,000 years ago, which is to flee an imminent threat of violence,” he said.

The church has displayed versions of the banner many times over the past two decades,Thomas said, but she noted its heightened relevance in 2018.

An unprecedented 68.5 million people have been forced from their home, and of them 25 million are refugees, according to the United Nations Refugee Agency. Meanwhile, the United States will reduce from 45,000 in 2018 to 30,000 in 2019  the number of refugees it will accept, and the Trump administration has declared that those escaping gang violence or domestic violence do not qualify for asylum. A federal judge has blocked the latter policy change.

Father William Brisotti said he hoped the simple wood and bamboo creche featuring near life-size ceramic figures will “raise consciousness” for those driving by on busy Straight Path.

“The creche is a symbol of all of the people around the world who are seeking to find safety and security and prosperity,” Koubek said.

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