Finnish Red Cross celebrates 125th anniversary

Published: 3 September 2002 0:00 CET

Outi Pärnänen in Helsinki

"Because we all are human." This slogan has become increasingly familiar to thousands of Finns as the Finnish Red Cross celebrates its 125th anniversary this year.

"We used this slogan to enliven the public debate on humanity, both as a principle and a practical tool," says Hannu-Pekka Laiho, Director of Communications at the Finnish Red Cross.

Values and attitudes to humanitarian ideals are at the heart of a study commissioned to see whether precisely they meant something to Finns today. The study showed that they remained attached to such ideals even in times of economic hardship. In today's material world, basic humanitarian values such as those embodied in the seven fundamental principles of the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement still resonated with meaning.

The same study also revealed that Finnish Red Cross volunteers and members felt that they played a fulfilling role, a fact that is clearly reflected in the numbers of members and volunteers, 100,000 and 40,000 respectively. The country's only blood transfusion service is run by Red Cross volunteers. International aid is largely funded by volunteer fundraising with 'Hunger Day' being one of the country's most important fundraising campaigns. The Finnish Red Cross' presence in disaster relief in different parts of the world is also constantly assured by the frequent deployment of Finnish Red Cross delegates to regions of the world where they can make the most positive contribution.

Speaking at the General Assembly of the Finnish Red Cross on 31 August 2002, Secretary General of the International Federation Didier Cherpitel said that the anniversary was a significant milestone and represented a great record of support to people in need - both in Finland and around the world. Referring to the events of September 11 last year, he said that "over the next few days the world will reflect on another anniversary, but this one much more recent and far less pleasant. We can slip into thinking that major disasters happen to other people, somewhere else. Now we know they can happen anywhere - at any time. We have been reminded again that the world is shrinking. That we all share a fragility, a vulnerability, an inter-connectedness." He also added that the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement is underpinned by "our most fundamental principle 'humanity' - to recognize the ties that bind us all is a principle which reminds us of the moral obligation to help those neighbours who need our support."