After Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez sent a holiday greeting to “everyone, including refugee babies in mangers,” some critics launched into an ongoing, highly politicized debate about whether Jesus was a refugee.
“Merry Christmas everyone – here’s to a holiday filled with happiness, family, and love for all people. (Including refugee babies in mangers + their parents),” the progressive Democrat from New York tweeted Tuesday.
When critics protested that Jesus wasn’t a refugee, she followed up with a link to a Jesuit magazine article arguing he was. The link was meant “for all the anti-immigrant pundits uncomfortable with and denying that Christ’s family were refugees, too,” she wrote.
For all the anti-immigrant pundits uncomfortable with and denying that Christ’s family were refugees, too: https://t.co/lLQCupyG3N
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@Ocasio2018) December 25, 2018
According to the Christian Gospels, Mary and Joseph endured a long, arduous journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem to register for a census, only to get there and find the town’s hostels full. Shortly after the baby Jesus was born in a stable or cave there, they had to flee to Egypt to escape a massacre ordered by King Herod. The family lived there in exile for years.
People continually debate whether Jesus’ story is applicable to the struggles of today’s refugee and migrant families ― with the arguments often falling along political lines.
Last year, for instance, Fox News co-hosts argued that Jesus wasn’t a refugee, after the Rev. Al Sharpton tweeted a call to “remember to thank God for his son, Jesus a refugee who fled to Egypt.” Sharpton’s tweet came after President Donald Trump ordered a halt to the nation’s refugee program and banned travelers from several Muslim-majority nations.
This year Trump’s spiritual adviser Paula White also argued that people who said Jesus was a refugee had “taken Biblical Scriptures out of context.”
However, Pope Francis has said that Jesus was a refugee.
“We believe that Jesus was a refugee, had to flee to save his life, with Saint Joseph and Mary, had to leave for Egypt,” the pope said in 2014. “He was a refugee.”
The pope has often connected the Christmas story to the global migrant crisis, reminding his followers that Jesus’ family fled to Egypt when he was a baby to escape persecution.
In 2016 the Vatican’s Nativity scene included a Maltese fishing boat, to remind visitors of the “the sad and tragic reality of migrants on boats making their way toward Italy,” the pope said.