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’Tis the season to give a damn

LONDON (SE): “Every Christmas, a romanticised picture is presented of the Holy Land of the past,” Leigh Daynes, the executive director of Doctors of the World in the United Kingdom (UK), said in launching set of Christmas cards depicting the Holy Family amidst images of the devastation of war.

The organisation believes that it is high time for people the world over to give a damn about the mass tragedy that has become the lot of the suffering people of the Middle East and other trouble spots in the world.

The office has produced Christmas cards with traditional images of the nativity superimposed on photographs donated by the Press Association of bombed out, burning buildings and other scenes that depict the violence of the war currently raging in the Middle East.

One shows the familiar images of Joseph leading a donkey with a pregnant Mary riding side-saddle against the background of a building hit by a bomb.

Another, the Magi pointing to a drone in the sky and the light of the mysterious star they were following obliterated by the trail of a blazing rocket.

A third shows the traditional nativity scene viewed through the lens of a partially destroyed house and the fourth one Joseph and Mary tending the newborn Jesus silhouetted against the light of on exploding bomb.

Variously titled Not so Silent Night and The Star of Bedlam, what the creators of the cards, advertising agency McCann London calls “the reality of Christmas” are designed to support the awareness campaign run by Doctors of the World of the humanitarian crisis facing the region of the Middle East today.

McCann London says that the peaceful pastoral images shared in homes, Churches and high streets are not aligned with much of the reality in our world today.

“This is completely at odds with the humanitarian crisis that the region faces today. This Christmas, we are asking people to see the realities that we see of the war-torn Middle East and share some goodwill with a donation to help us give medical aid to people in desperate need,” Daynes says in a press release.

A set of the four cards is being sold by Doctors of the World UK for £10 ($97) as a fund raiser to support the work of the medics, midwives and psychologists who have provided over 580,000 people with medical care and 8,560 mental health consultations in Syria, Yemen, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq.

“We launched this project in the first week of Advent,” Daynes said.

“We want to provoke a broad public debate about the effect of the conflict on ordinary people at the time of year when many of us are thinking of loved ones, peace and goodwill,” he continued.

“The scale of devastation in Syria is hard to comprehend. The country’s health system has been brought to its knees,” he noted.

He pointed out that over five years, more than a quarter of a million people have been killed and, in areas where there is heavy fighting, most hospitals and healthcare centres have been closed or are only operating on a limited basis.

He added that he believes that this is a Christmas message that is not faith specific, as people of all faiths and none have been forced from their homes, lost their livelihoods and are now homeless, in addition to the countless number of children who have been robbed of their childhood.

He described the Middle East of today as representing the biggest forced displacement of people the world has seen since World War II.

Daynes pointed out that the United Nations estimates that 65 million people, 28 million of them children, have fled their homes because of the violence and armed conflict.

Around half of them come from three countries, Syria, Afghanistan and Somalia.

Mike Oughton, the creative director at McCann London, said, “We saw a huge irony in the war-torn imagery of the Middle East today, when compared with the imagery of the nativity and its message of peace on earth and goodwill to all men. By creating a set of Christmas cards that seamlessly merge the past with the stark realities of the present, we hope to prick people’s consciences, so that at this time of giving, they are inspired to support the amazing humanitarian work of Doctors of the World.”

A set of the four cards can be purchased from

“Instead of sending shop-bought cards this year, I’m asking everyone I know to buy and send these unique cards,” television personality and Doctors of the World trustee, Chris van Tullenken, said.

Daynes calls it an opportunity to reinstate a little of the most festive virtue of all—hope.

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