Anyone who believes the hype that non-Christians are offended by Christmas cards, Christmas trees or decorations has obviously never visited Lebanon during the festive Christmas season. The lights and splendour displayed are quite amazing and would certainly give Oxford Street in London a run for it`s money. So, fear of offending people is definitely not the reason we at Cedar Rose
have decided not to send Christmas Cards to our clients and suppliers around the world this year. Our decision instead is to email our clients with our good wishes and thoughts, and to donate what we would have spent on cards, labels, printing and postage stamps to the UNHCR
- the United Nations Refugee Agency. We really hope and believe that our clients won`t mind this gesture and we would be delighted if all those of you reading this would join us in doing the same. Imagine if all of us did, what a difference we could make! Our planet is facing an unprecedented number of displaced people at this present time - over 60 million by educated estimates - that is almost the entire population of England, Scotland and Northern Ireland put together - wandering around with no place to call home and very little hope of returning home or finding a safe, warm and secure place to live in the near future. What`s worse is that 30 million of them are children. We tend to think of refugee`s as different from "us" but believe me, any one of us could become a refugee at any time. It happened to me in 2006. One day I was sitting on the beach in Lebanon - my home country at that time - enjoying the warm sunshine. The next morning I was packing a suitcase to flee with my two young children and my husband to any country that wasn`t being bombarded! Ironically, the closest "safe" place at that time was Syria. As we drove through Latakia in Syria a few days later, I remember thinking how beautiful that city was and that this is how Lebanon would look if it had never had 16 years of civil war. Not feeling particularly safe in Syria after several exhausting days of travelling, we eventually made our way to Damascus and flew to Cyprus and again - that dreadful irony - we arrived to a friend`s apartment in Limassol on the anniversary of the Turkish invasion when they sound the air raid sirens in remembrance. Not a noise we were pleased to hear, after thinking we had just reached a place of safety. Thankfully, the reason for the wailing sirens was explained by a passing Cypriot lady and we finally found some peace. Cypriots at that time were very sympathetic to us - many of them have been refugees themselves too from the north of the island and have never been able to return back home since the 1970`s. Fortunately, after two months spent in Cyprus, my husband was able to return to Lebanon to pack our belongings and reunite us with our little dog, Tasha. In fact, we consider ourselves extremely lucky but the experience itself was very stressful and extremely humbling - and just a mild taste of what those 60 million people are now going through. War does not come with a warning. There are signs, yes - indications that things are amiss - but if an army, militia or terrorist organisation decides to invade or attack your homeland they don`t generally tip you off in advance. When I packed that day, I thought we would travel through Syria and spend a few days vacation in Syria and Turkey - so I packed for a sunny weekend. One suitcase for four people - and most of that was beach towels! But as we journeyed towards the border with Syria, it became evident that this wasn`t the usual "trouble in the South" that the Lebanese had become accustomed too - it was a full scale "lock down" of all major exit points from the country. Once we left, there was no way back in for the next two months. We can only hope that the governments around the world will do more to help re-home the millions who can never go home, but as a business community, something we could do is to donate to UNHCR
instead of sending Christmas or New Year cards to our clients and suppliers this year and send them a nice email instead. Surely, knowing you have provided blankets to keep a displaced family warm in their tent at night in the winter months -in their honour - would mean more to them than a pretty picture in their mailbox. Happy Thanksgiving to all those who are celebrating today, let us truly be thankful for all that we have.