Compassionate in War, Christian in Vision
This year I read the Geneva Conventions for the very first time. The photos from Abu Ghraib prison made me want to read the classic international agreements about the treatment of prisoners in time of war, and I needed to write an editorial for ChristianityToday about the implications of the abuses there.
Reading those documents—as well as the other conventions about the treatment of the wounded, those shipwrecked at sea, and civilians under enemy control—I had a profound sense that a Christian vision undergirded these texts.
Unfortunately, when I went to the website of the International Committee of the Red Cross, I found just the barest hint that the man behind the ICRC and the first Geneva Conventions might have been motivated by a Christian vision. The ICRC web page devoted to founding visionary Henry Dunant (1828-1910) says only that he "came from a very devout Calvinist family that practised charity."
Further research on the Internet and a summer vacation visit to ICRC headquarters in Geneva expanded my understanding of Dunant's Christian vision. Here's what I found:
According to Pam Brown's Henry Dunant, the only English-language biography of Dunant I found at the ICRC bookstore, Henri Dunant's parents left the "official church" and joined the "Church of the Awakening, a group which insisted on active charity." I have found no other mentions of an organization by this name in Switzerland in the 1830's and '40s, though I have found plenty of references to an evangelical awakening inside and later outside the Reformed church in Switzerland.
The Swiss website of the Henry Dunant Society reports that Dunant, who failed miserably in his studies at Geneva's ...