By Dr Rajan Philips -
Wars have been sad but regularly occurring man-made aberration in the long history of human progress and civilisation.
The tragic side of these calamities has always aroused the tender sentiments of inspired men and women to step in to mitigate the sufferings of the direct and indirect victims of war through humanitarian actions.
The touching story of the birth of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement (IRCRC) is an inspiring example.
As we celebrate the World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day today, May 8, it will be apt to recall that motivational story and the yeoman services rendered by this humanitarian organisation.
In June 1859, a Swiss businessman Jean-Henri Dunant travelled to Italy to meet French emperor Napoléon III to take some business related issues.
Then he had a first-hand view of the Battle of Solferino in which on a single day, about 40,000 soldiers on both sides died or were left wounded on the battle field. He was shocked by the appalling state of the wounded soldiers, and the terrible absence of even basic medical care.
He forgot all about his business intentions and got busy to organise the treatment and care for the wounded with the support of the local villagers,
That was just the beginning. Back home in Geneva, Switzerland, he wrote the book A Memory of Solferino and published it with his own money in 1862.
He sent copies of the book to leading political and military figures throughout Europe and captured their attention.
In the book he not only described his experiences in Solferino but also clearly pleaded for the formation of national voluntary relief organisation to help care for wounded soldiers.
He also called for putting in place international
treaties to treat the war wounded and captured with
dignity and ensure the protection of neutral medical personnel. His vision and dedicated efforts did not go in vain.
On August 22, 1864, the first Geneva Convention was established. This spurred the first national societies of Red Cross were founded. Total neglect of his business led to its bankruptcy.
But his contribution to the well-being of fellow beings continued with the same intensity.
World recognition came in 1901 when he became the joint winner of the first ever Nobel Prize for Peace. His birthday, May 8, was aptly chosen as the date for the annual observance.
Today IRCRC has grown into a mammoth movement with nearly 97 million volunteers, members and staff worldwide.
It was founded to protect human life and health, to ensure respect for all, and to prevent and alleviate human suffering.
It was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on three occasions (in 1917, 1944 and 1963). This is in addition to the Nobel Prize won by its founder,
Each year a theme is chosen. The theme this year is: ‘Youth on the move.’ With 187 National Societies as members it is easily the world's largest and dedicated humanitarian organisation that today goes beyond war time relief. It extends its support to victims of all kinds of human misery that strikes in the form of deadly disease, famine.
The World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day is an occasion to recall the amazing birth of this great movement due to the inspired and humane endeavour of a single man and the unparalleled services rendered by this marvellous organisation.
Love is doing small things with great love.
— Mother Teresa
One of the most difficult things is not to change society — but to change yourself.
— Nelson Mandela