Black nativity angers Italy's "White Xmas" party

ROME Mon Dec 14, 2009 1:03pm EST

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ROME (Reuters) - A nativity scene featuring a dark-skinned Jesus, Mary and Joseph that has gone on display in a Verona courthouse has created heated debate in a city with strong links to Italy's anti-immigration Northern League party.

The nativity's appearance coincides with the League's controversial operation "White Christmas," a two-month sweep ending on Christmas Day to ferret out foreigners without proper permits in Coccaglio, a small League-led town east of Milan.

The Christmas scene -- featuring a dark-skinned baby Jesus dressed in a red shirt and lying in a manger -- was the idea of Mario Giulio Schinaia, the chief Public Prosecutor in Verona.

"History teaches us that baby Jesus and his parents were very probably dark-skinned," Schinaia told Reuters. "This nativity belongs to a universal Christmas tradition that brings together the whole of Christianity in celebration."

The nativity has caused heated reactions in the rich northern town, where resentment toward foreigners has spread as the number of immigrants, particularly from north Africa and eastern Europe, continues to rise.

"It is a useless act of provocation, just like the suggestion not to have a nativity scene at all, in order not to offend Muslims," Northern League farm minister Luca Zaia told one paper, referring to proposals in recent years that town halls and stores should no longer sponsor Christmas scenes.

"Magistrates have other problems to deal with: I hope they spend as much time thinking about lawsuits and trials," he said.

The Northern League, an ally of conservative Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi with key cabinet posts including the interior ministry, has used its growing political clout to secure tough new laws including making illegal immigration a crime.

League proposals have ranged from separate buses and trains for immigrants to banning new mosques and forbidding the serving of Chinese food and kebabs in towns under its control.

Schinaia defended his black nativity scene, saying it was not intended to be polemical but to encourage debate.

"There shouldn't be a white or black Christmas, only a merry Christmas for everyone, of every skin color, ethnic background and nationality."

(Reporting by Ella Ide; Editing by Stephen Brown)

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Comments (16)
R_DeBeaux wrote:
This article proves beyond a doubt how absolutely insecure the race card is.
Everybody benefits off the sacrifices of Christ. Not just white skinned people.
Unfortunately some insecure idiot decided to put a prideful salve on his skin by place a racial epitaph on the baby Jesus.
How immature and wrong.
I personally am very proud of the life of Martin Luther King, but you don’t see anyone try to sell a white doll of Martin Luther King.
Baby Jesus was a white skinned baby. He died for everyone’s sins.
Even your pride. Get over it.

Dec 15, 2009 6:05pm EST  --  Report as abuse
cb1976 wrote:
DeBeaux:
Apparently you have been corrupted by a Euro-centric view of the Bible. Please check your facts. Jesus was not white. His parents took him to Egypt to hide after he was born. How is a white family going to hide in the midst of a group of dark skinned people. Look at the line of David, shown to be a dark skin tribe of Israel. Please oh please study your Bible!

Dec 15, 2009 7:02pm EST  --  Report as abuse
MichelleD0.1 wrote:
Let’s see if we can understand, Jesus Christ was born in an area where most people were not white skinned, so I assume he was neither, so don’t see why the controversy here.
The problem is what we have been raised with a baby Jesus with blue eyes and white skin, and I could be sure that if we could travel to his time we will not find a single caucasian man throughout Jerusalem. And finally the skin is unimportant because his legacy was far beyond of all earthly things.

Dec 15, 2009 7:07pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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