A tribute to Cornelio Sommaruga: "We are not alone in this world."

Cornelio Sommaruga obituary


It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Swiss humanitarian, diplomat and former president of the Caux Initiatives of Change Foundation, Cornelio Sommaruga. After a distinguished career as a Swiss diplomat, he served as President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) from 1987 to 1999.

Cornelio Sommaruga took over the presidency of the Swiss Caux Foundation at the end of his mandate as the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in 2000. Following the change of name from ‘Moral Re-Armament’ to ‘Initiatives of Change’ in 2001, he initiated the creation of the IofC International Association, based in Switzerland.


Cornelio Sommaruga K Annan M Sahnoun
In Caux with Kofi Annan (left) and his good friend and successor as president of IofC International, Mohammed Sahnoun (centre)


Cornelio Sommaruga brought a new visibility to the movement and his great humanity helped in bridging differences to enhance Initiative of Change’s reconciliation and peacebuilding efforts in the Great Lakes region of Central Africa, Sierra Leone, and other situations.

His commitment to Initiatives of Change and the Caux conferences, especially those related to human security, led many in international circles to re-evaluate the work of the movement. Several times in Geneva, people were overherad saying: ‘If Cornelio is involved, I will need to take another look!’


Cornelio Sommaruga and Christine Beerli at Caux
In discussion with Christine Beerli, former president of Caux Initiatives of Change


After serving as president of the Caux Foundation, he became the founding president of Initiatives of Change International, the federation of national IofC bodies, in 2002.

Initiatives of Change was important to Cornelio, and he remained an honorary life-president of IofC International. He called IofC a "wonderful international network of motivated people" and he enjoyed coming to the Caux Palace where he could be seen in the dining-room, serving ice-cream and laughing with conference participants.


Chatting with friends in Caux


Cornelio was charismatic, warm, pragmatic and loved to greet everyone with "Grüss Gott", explaining that the greeting, typical in Austria, Bavaria and eastern Switzerland, invokes a third presence in every encounter. "We’re not alone in this world," he used to say. He had friends on every continent and was deeply convinced that each of us has "an ethical responsibility to work for reconciliation through forgiveness and justice", starting with ourselves.

Our thoughts and heartfelt condolences go out to his family and friends.

We will miss him in Caux.


Read more: https://www.iofc.ch/stories/2001-cornelio-sommaruga



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