2/1/2008, Canon IXUS950 IS Thinking of the Holiday Season reminded me of the Red Cross / Red Crescent Museum in Geneva. (Note: The organization Westerners know as the “Red Cross” is non-denominational, and goes by the name “Red Crescent” in Muslim countries so that the cross isn’t misinterpreted as a Christian bias.)
The haunting exhibitions bear testament to a history of almost 150 years of service to injured soldiers, regardless of who they may be. This particular sculpture, depicting a nun tending to a wounded officer in the American Civil War, was only one of many.
Near the entrance, a memorial to all prisoners everywhere showed them as blind, faceless, and mute, with hands tied behind the back… far from an exaggeration or metaphor, this is often the plight of those captured during times of conflict.
Apart from the obvious denial of mobility, many prisoners derive even greater despair from the lack of a voice. They are kept in mystery as to where they are, where they may be going, and what else is going on in the world.
Time and again prisoners have been detained after their conflicts have ended, and even convicted felons are at least granted the right to know the expected times of their release.
Even when there is the very least degree of freedom, somehow the human spirit finds ways to carry on an active life of dreams. The mind transports itself to faraway places, and the hands develop new skills with the materials available, such as they may be.
A collection of “prisoner art” showcased extremely elaborate constructions, made from tiny bits and pieces of materials that drifted into the prisoners’ cells over the years of captivity.
A man from Russia was able to twist individual threads from clothing garments to construct a scale miniature of a traditional ?????????? ?????, lúkovichnaya glava (“Onion Dome“) from his native Kiev.
Walking through the museum, there were inspiring moments, such as an installation highlighting enlarged passages from every major religion in the world, excerpts of the passages imploring mercy and tolerance.
And haunting moments, such as seeing the rows upon rows of card catalogs, in which each card represented the name of a missing soldier. I asked about whether the file was active or hypothetical, or if they had given up, and the guide explained “This old list is merely 100,000, and the only reason we have given up on them is that everyone here would be over a hundred years old; they are certainly dead. The current list is over 1,000,000.”
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