May 8 : World Red Cross Day

The World Red Cross Day is celebrated to mark the birth anniversary of Henry Dunant, the founder of the Red Cross. Henry Dunant was born on 8th May, 1828 in Switzerland.
Europe was changing fast in the post 1850’s when Germany and Italy were rapidly heading towards ‘Unification”. Henry Dunant was a businessman. His Business ambition was the creation of a large commercial centre, for which he needed sufficient land. For the purpose, he decided to enlist the help of Emperor Napoleon III, who was engaged in a battle to drive the Austrians out of Northern Italy, It was 24th June 1859 when Henry Dunant arrived Castiglione of the place near Solferino where the battle was being fought. It was one of the bloodiest battle of the century. Nearly 40,000 persons were lying dead or wounded in this battlefield of Solferino. Henry Dunant was “A mere tourist with no part whatsoever in this great conflict” and it was his “rare privilege to witness the moving scene”, the Bloodiest, the sight of dead, the strikes and groans of the wounded there moved the heart of young Dunant. He immediately went to the nearest Village and gathered the young villagers and formed first Aid parties and get back to the battlefield. He soothed, comforted and consoled the wounded soldier. The inadequacy of medical personnel shocked him. He urged the need of trained volunteers to bring succor to the wounded soldier. Prompt came enthusiastic response from the women around to help the maimed and the wounded.
Dunant returned to Geneva in Switzerland and wrote down his harrowing experiences in ‘ A memory of Solferino’ that stirred conscience of Europe and the whole world. On October 26, 1863, 36 dignitaries, representing fourteen states gathered. They endorsed the formation of relief societies in all the countries and stressed the importance of neutrality at the time of war. They resolved to adopt a distinctive sign-a Red Cross on a white Ground- to Identify and protect those who assisted the wounded soldiers. Thus was born a new organization, The International Committee of Red Cross. Subsequently, the ICRC widened its horizon and rendered yeomen’s service not only during the wars but also during all disasters.
From 1867, the life of Dunant became catastrophic. He almost became bankrupt and left Geneva never to return. Disappointment aged him prematurely and due to ill health, he stayed in a local hospital at Heiden, for the last 18 years of his life. When he was discovered by a young journalist in 1895, the world was shocked to hear the plight that he was in and came forward to help him, but Dunant politely declined to receive any help.
In 1901, the first Nobel Peace Prize was conferred on him, jointly with a Frenchman. The ICRC said, from Geneva “There is no man who more deserves this honour, for it was you, forty years ago, who set on foot the international organization for the relief of the wounded on the battle field; without you, the Red Cross, the supreme humanitarian achievement of the nineteenth century, would probably never have been undertaken.”
The apostle of peace, Jean Henry breathed his last on Sunday, October 30, 1910 at Heiden, amidst the serenity of the mountains.
The young Red Cross humbly endeavors, to train the “Zealous youth, in the fundamental principles of the Red Cross, so that they may remain “imperturbable, unwearyingly, unfaltering” and develop in them the elements of “quiet self-sacrifice”
Red Cross: A Service to Suffering Humanity
In India, Red Cross symbolizes the service to humanity, particularly, the poor and needy persons. The aim of Red Cross is to serve the injured soldiers and help the victims of natural calamities like floods, earthquake and epidemics.
Since, the inception of Red Cross by its founder Henry Dunant, the Red Cross has earned respectable place in society by serving the humanity. King Ashoka, no doubt, known for the battle of Kalinga, but he is much more respected and recognized for his services for welfare of the wounded soldiers and his folk after the battle.
Red Cross was founded in India in 1920, under Act 15 of Constitution of India, that with the sole aim of promotion of health and prevention of disease and mitigate the suffering of people. Although Punjab Red Cross branch was founded in the year 1925, the spirit of selfless service to suffering humanity was kindled by Bhai Ghanaiya ji, 170 year prior to inception of Red Cross movements in India.
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