The Red Cross was the world’s first humanitarian organisation. It was started in 1863 by a Swiss man named Henry Dunant. Dunant was very moved by his experiences tending the wounded after the battle of Solferino in Italy.
He began the Red Cross as an organisation whose mission was to tend the wartime wounded. It now works across the world to help those in crisis. According to the Henry Dunant museum in Heiden, Switzerland, where he spent the last years of his life:
‘We find the roots for his social engagement in the fact that he grew up in a stringently Protestant family, and also in the tradition of reading and studying the Bible in groups with friends.’
The Red Cross was founded according to principles of political and religious neutrality, which are values that it continues to hold dear. Nevertheless, it was the Bible that first inspired Dunant to care for the wartime wounded and to begin an organisation dedicated to that cause.
The story of the Good Samaritan, the biblical character who tended a wounded man, has often been used to symbolise the work of the Red Cross (Luke 10.30-37). Dunant was himself dubbed the ‘Samaritan of Solferino’ during his lifetime.