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April 17, 2023

The Samaritan of Solferino

The parable of the good Samaritan, in the Gospel of Luke, describes a Samaritan who comes upon a wounded stranger in the wilderness. While many are unwilling to help, the good Samaritan stops, binds up the stranger’s wounds, and takes him to an inn where he can rest and heal. Similarly, Henri Dunant once came upon many suffering strangers and did not turn away. Born in Switzerland in 1828, Dunant grew up in a Bible-inspired home that cared for the sick, poor, and orphaned. As a young man, Dunant formed a society for Bible study and serving the needy.

At 31, Dunant sought a meeting with the French emperor Napoleon III concerning some business ventures in North Africa. The emperor was encamped for a battle in Solferino, Italy. Dunant arrived the day after a grisly battle and found 40,000 men dead or dying with no one to care for them. Abandoning his plans, Dunant rallied locals from the surrounding villages to care for the soldiers regardless of their nationalities. One noblewoman serving the wounded soldiers agreed that Jesus “made no such distinctions between men in well doing.” The villagers gave Dunant a nickname for his efforts: the Samaritan of Solferino. But this good Samaritan’s deeds did not stop in Solferino. Dunant went on to become one of the founders of the International Red Cross, which has been serving those in crisis situations for over 150 years.



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