A Spanish church is displaying a nativity scene that replaces baby Jesus with Aylan Kurdi, the 3-year-old Syrian boy who drowned off the coast of Turkey in September and sparked international awareness of the refugee crisis, as a way of highlighting the plight faced by migrants.
The Spanish news site The Local reports that San Anton Church in the Chueca district of downtown Madrid set up a nativity scene that features a doll model of Kurdi lying face down just like in the infamous photograph from September, which showed him lying dead with his face buried in the sand on a Turkish beach.
The nativity scene, which also replaces Mother Mary and Joseph with the boy's grieving parents, is housed inside of a refugee tent instead of a manger, while the floor is a map highlighting the main routes used by migrants to enter Europe. The walls of the tent are line with recreations of drawings done by refugee children.
The report states that the nativity scene was created by Spanish artist Ikella Alonso, who works for the refugee NGO "Mensajeros de la Paz" (Messengers of Peace), an organization founded by priest Ángel García Rodríguez in 1962. The nativity scene can be viewed at the San Anton Church until Jan. 6.
"After the whole world has seen the picture of little Aylan, the boy they found dead on the beach, we wanted to set him up as baby Jesus in this crib. In reality, we want people to become aware of the fact that it is not possible to take care of the refugees," Fr. Angel from the San Anton Church said during a video interview. "Thousands and thousands of refugees are shivering and dying in the cold, starving to death. Their only roof is the sky and the rain. However in spite of this situation, [governments] don't make a move."
When pictures of the three-year-old's lifeless body, photographed by Turkish journalist Nilüfer Demir, appeared on social media in September, over 20 million people viewed the images within 12 hours, which sparked international interest and discussion about the real travesties of the world's migrant crisis.
Over 4 million Syrians have fled from their homes to escape the violence of the Syrian civil war and the rise of the Islamic State terrorist group, and Kurdi was among them, trying to escape with his family on an overcrowded dinghy of migrants that was headed for the Greek island of Kos before it sank.
Kurdi and his family were attempting to ultimately migrate to Canada where his aunt lives. Although it went unphotographed, Kurdi's 5-year-old brother Galip, also died in a similar manner and washed up on another Turkish beach.
Although the Syrian refugee crisis became an international hot-button topic in 2015, Dr. Claire Wardle, the research director at the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University, told Breitbart that the refugee crisis did not receive its deserved attention until after the Kurdi photos were published.
"2015 was the year the Syrian refugee crisis hit the European consciousness, but it's easy to forget that this was not the case before the Aylan Kurdi image," Wardle said. "In April, over 700 refugees and migrants lost their lives when their boat capsized off Lampedusa. After one day of coverage, the story disappeared, despite the tragic loss of life."
"The photo of Aylan Kurdi galvanised the public in a way that hours of broadcasts and thousands of column inches wasn't able to do," Wardle added. "It has created a frame through which subsequent coverage has been positioned and compared."