Escape from Danger
To understand the plight of those who are refugees
by The Revd Alan M. Barker
Suitable for Key Stage 2
To understand the plight of those who are refugees.
Preparation and materials
- Some Nativity costumes will be needed for the drama should you choose to use it.
- Children will need rehearsing in the following roles:
Narrator 1 (could be teacher or assembly leader)
Narrator 2 (could be teacher or assembly leader)
- You will need a doll to represent Jesus, a clipboard for the army captain and a sword for Herod.
- The websites of organizations such as Oxfam (www.oxfam.org.uk), the Red Cross (www.redcross.org.uk), and the Refugee Council (www.refugeecouncil.org.uk) provide up-to-date information on refugee policy and emergencies.
- Sensitivity will be needed if there are children present who are asylum seekers or refugees.
- Invite the children to think back to the Christmas story and to consider how it ends. Does everyone 'live happily ever after'? Recall that the wise men, on their journey to Bethlehem, mistakenly went to Herod's palace to look for Jesus. Herod became very upset and angry when he heard the reason for their visit. Can the children think why? Herod asked the wise men to return to tell him where to find Jesus. However, sensing that this was all a plot, the wise men secretly took another route home.
- Introduce an 'extra' episode of the Christmas story, not often shown in Nativity plays, or tell the story of the Escape to Egypt in your own words.
Escape into Egypt
(For the first part of this drama, Joseph and Mary (carrying a doll for the baby Jesus), sit motionless at the rear of the 'stage'.)
Narrator 1: After Jesus was born, his bright star disappeared from the sky. The wise men disappeared too! And King Herod was furious!
(Enter Herod, shouting and brandishing his sword at members of the audience.)
Herod: Where are they? The three Wise Ones said that they would come back here. Where are they? Can you tell me? Can you? Or you? Tell me, or I'll cut your throats!
(An army captain approaches, carrying a clipboard, and salutes.)
Captain: Nothing to report, your majesty. We've checked all the stables and outhouses in Bethlehem and spoken with every innkeeper. No one has seen anything.
Herod: Nonsense! They're hiding the child. He's there somewhere. So, let's teach that town a lesson they will never forget. Search every house and kill any little boys you find.
Narrator 2: It was a terrible order, but the captain could not argue. Everyone was terrified of Herod.
(Herod and army captain exit. Mary and Joseph are seen preparing to sleep.)
Narrator 1: That night Joseph was troubled by a nightmare. He dreamed that Herod's soldiers were chasing after him. But then, in his dream, an angel spoke to him.
Angel: They are trying to kill your child. There's no time to lose. Take Mary and the baby and escape to Egypt.
(Joseph wakes Mary, indicating the need for secrecy.)
Narrator 2: The dream was so real that Joseph woke Mary. From further down the street they could hear the sound of soldiers banging on doors. Women were shouting and screaming. Quickly and quietly, they bundled up their things, took Jesus in their arms, and slipped away into the darkness.
- Explain that Mary and Joseph went to Egypt and stayed there until Herod had died. It was then safe to return home (Matthew 2.19-21). Invite the children to consider how Mary and Joseph would have felt. What difficulties would they have faced as strangers in Egypt?
- Sadly, thousands of people in the world today share the experience of Mary and Joseph. Refer to the term 'refugee'. A refugee is a person driven from their home by war and violence. Sometimes a lack of food and water also forces people to become refugees. In Africa, violence in Liberia has recently driven many people from their homes. Workers with the relief and development charity, Oxfam, tell the story of Lorpu and her seven children:
'When men with guns came to her community the family fled. "We ran as soon as we heard the guns," she said. "You just run; you don't look back to see what's happening." After a very difficult journey with no supplies of food or water, she now lives in a refugee camp many miles away from her home. There is no school, her family's diet is poor, and the children often suffer from illness. "We want to go home to be eating good food," says Lorpu. "We need to go home." But until it is safe to return home the family will remain refugees.'
- Conclude that it is hard to be a refugee. It means finding a new home, new friends, and a new school. Refugees must often learn a new language and a new way of life. Their future can be very uncertain. People who wish to live in the UK as refugees must explain why they have left home. Until it is decided whether or not they can stay, they are called 'asylum seekers'. When Christians remember Joseph and Mary's escape from danger, they are helped to understand the feelings and needs of asylum seekers and refugees.
Time for reflection
God of all people,
help us to think about the stories of people
who have left their homes to escape from danger,
the family of Jesus,
and refugees across the world today.
'When I needed a neighbour' (omit verse 3) (Come and Praise, 65)
Publication date: January 2004 (Vol.6 No.1) Published by SPCK, London, UK.