John Calvin and Refugees in Geneva

John Calvin and Refugees in Geneva May 13, 2018

I just found, thanks to Chris Woznicki on twitter, William Naphy, “Geneva: Hospitality and Xenophobia” in Calvin and the Consolidation of the Genevan Reformation (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 2003), parts can be read on Google Books.

Calvin himself was a French refugee to Geneva and many Genevans were concerned with the influx of more and more French refugees to who were flooding the city, especially those who could afford to buy citizenship. There were concerns about disease, inflation, food shortages, over-supply of labour, and general break down of law and order. Even so, this did not stop the magistrates and the churches from doing everything they could to help them.

F.B. Gordon’s biography of Calvin (201) points out how: “The deacons of the Genevan church did just about anything & everything [for the refugees]. They purchased clothing & firewood, provided medical care, were present at births. They arranged guardians for the children of the sick. Essentially they attempted to meet any need. Their task was thankless. The deacons had to respond immediately to whatever crisis landed at their doors – a sudden influx of refugees could arrive unannounced. They had to deal with difficult benefactors and recipients and the records are full of the ingratitude of those whom they helped, as well as the hostility of locals. People often stole items they were loaned, and violent threats against the deacons were not uncommon. And (200) “Under Calvin’s guidance, the diaconate in Geneva was transformed from a stage towards ordination into a ministry of social welfare in its own right.”

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