A Massachusetts church is using its nativity scene to make a statement against gun violence after recent mass shootings.
The traditional scene symbolizing peace incorporates a list of eight mass shootings that occurred throughout the U.S. and the number of people killed in each incident.
“We chose these events to highlight [that] this can happen anywhere,” Pastor Stephen Josoma of Saint Susana Parish in Dedham, Massachusetts, told NBC News. “It has happened at nursing homes, schools, military bases, or concerts, and there doesn’t seem to be a place that is safe.”
The church worked alongside Pax Christi, a Catholic group promoting peace and justice, to continue the conversation surrounding gun violence.
“It feels like we are in an endless loop cycle of tragedy striking, talking about it, and then deciding this isn’t the time to act because we should be praying for the families and victims,” Josoma said. “Our hope is to keep the conversation going.”
The November shooting at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, is among those listed in the scene. Devin Patrick Kelley, the gunman who had previously escaped from a psychiatric facility, opened fire on the church during a Sunday service, killing 26 people and injuring 19 others.
Democrats renewed their calls for stricter gun control following the Texas shooting, while Republicans insisted guns were not the issue. Local protesters took to the streets in states such as Oregon, demanding that Congress take action.
The Las Vegas mass shooting, also listed in the nativity scene, occurred in October and resulted in 59 deaths and 546 non-fatal injuries. Stephen Paddock opened fire on a crowd at the Route 91 Harvest music festival on the Las Vegas strip.
Josoma accepts that including the topic of gun violence in the nativity scene could spark political conversations.
“Jesus was a political person, and he was certainly seen as a threat to the state,” he said. “His parade on Jerusalem on Palm Sunday was street politics.”
The nativity scene has received mostly good feedback thus far, Josoma said, and he hopes people reflect on the tragedies in the context of Jesus.
"We think of ourselves as too small to make a change,” he said. “That change has to take place in our own mind and heart before it can take place in the world.”