There were lots of things to see in Geneva, Switzerland, but by far I was most grateful to have visited the museum of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. It’s across the street from the United Nations and around the corner from the city’s botanical gardens.
One of the reasons that I wanted to spend time in Geneva is because it’s known internationally for peace-keeping and humanitarian efforts.
I’m sorry to say, barring this wonderful museum, that we were unimpressed with Geneva. It’s an exceptionally expensive city (ranked 4th most expensive in the world) on beautiful Lake Geneva, but I did not find the people, the city, or even the customs to be welcoming, charming or beautiful. In fact, Jack and I both far preferred France and Italy to Switzerland, both on the trail of the TMB and off of it.
Except for this terrific museum. If you are in Geneva and have two hours to spare, visit this museum.
Now, let’s be clear: this museum is dedicated to an organization that was founded due to inhumane acts during times of war. It’s a sobering experience.
BUT. There were so many interesting things to learn—things that I took for granted and didn’t realize were either initiated by or connected to the Red Cross in some way. While sobering, in the end you are left with a tremendous feeling of hope. And a feeling that one really can make a difference to many. And that humanity can bridge chasms of disrespect and hate. It’s not easy, but it’s worth working for. It’s incredibly inspiring.
In 1862 Swiss businessman Henry Dunant published Memoir of Solferino, on the horrors of war. His wartime experience inspired him to propose a relief organization for wounded soldiers that would later become the International Red Cross.
The development of such a relief organization would lead to the Geneva Convention in 1864, whose purpose is focused solely on the humanitarian treatment of victims of war.
In 1901 Henry Dunant was co-awarded the very first Nobel Peace prize for founding an organization that compelled international, cross-cultural cooperation and respect.
The Geneva Convention focused on “the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded in Armies in the Field.”
There is a time line on the perimeter of the museum. What is impressive about it is that every year since inception, more and more countries have joined the Red Cross. What’s depressing about the time line is that every year since inception the services of the Red Cross were required in wars occurring somewhere on the planet.
Ameliorer (French). Verbessern (German). Improve (English).
Any organization that attempts to tackle this herculean issue has my respect.
And more importantly, my dollar.