The international confessional societies that exist today and are mostly dominated by Protestants (above all the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Communion of Reformed Churches) have their roots in the 19th century. Collectively, these confessional associations regard themselves as an ecumenical movement. They can be viewed in the context of various globalization trends, which have made attempts to deal with and ultimately overcome denominational divisions and national and cultural differences within Christianity. Alongside the World Council of Churches and its predecessors, the League of Nations was established at the international level and the United Nations in 1945. The emergence of ecumenical associations and federations was at the same time a reaction against increasing secularization tendencies, especially in Western Europe.
Out of the Geneva Committee for the relief of wounded soldiers and the development of international law, which was founded in 1863, developed the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, which is still thriving today. This movement became established not only in Christian countries or countries with a western culture. It also gained considerable appeal in other cultural contexts, such as the Islamic world, where it was able to draw on existing discourses and practices of charity. In the context of the colonialism, nationalism and decolonization of the 19th and 20th centuries, however, the Red Cross and Red Crescent movement repeatedly reached limits that called into question its humanitarian principles. This article investigates from a global historical perspective the political, but also cultural and social, strategies of assertion and appropriation that the movement adopted to meet these challenges over the past century and a half.