A stone plaque was unveiled in Shanghai’s God Temple in December 2017 to honor French Jesuit priest Robert Jacquinot de Besange, who saved hundreds of thousands of people when he established the Shanghai Safe Zone during the Japanese army’s attack on the city in August 1937.
The Shanghai Safe Zone was the first one established during the war, and it inspired German businessman, Johann Rabe, to create the Nanking Safe Zone in an attempt to protect people during the Nanking Massacre. Later, Father Robert, building on his experience in Shanghai, established a similar safe zone in Wuhan, Hubei Province, when the city was occupied by Japanese forces in 1938.
Despite his direct contributions to refugee relief and his successful lobbying of the United Nations to establish the concept of International Safe Zones, Fr. Robert’s name is still relatively unknown even by the Jesuits, his own Order and the wider Catholic Church.