It is a reach for the board member to claim the symbol has nothing to do with Christianity, but he is quite right that, at least on paper, Indonesia still functions on certain principles of pluralism enshrined in the Pancasila doctrine. Of course, even that has its revisionist movement.
The objections to the symbol have everything to do with its association with Christianity, and the desire to chase its visibility out of public life. If an organization described as “Christian” is seen as a prominent force for good works, it is competition, and bad for business, and also open to allegations of proselytizing by virtue of its failure to hide under a rock. “Indonesian Red Cross does not give in to Islamist, cross remains in logo,” by Mathias Hariyadi for AsiaNews, February 27:
Jakarta (AsiaNews) – The Indonesian Red Cross (Palang Merah Indonesia or PMI in Indonesian) will never change the traditional logo that has made it famous around the world. The statement came following criticism from the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), an Islamist party that says that the symbol of a red cross is too easily identifiable with Christian culture and traditions. Red Cross volunteers and activists reject the claim, saying that any changes to the logo are tantamount to giving in to the extremists. For former Vice President Jusuf Kalla, the demand is baseless.
PMI executive member Muhammad Muas said the logo was agreed to in the Geneva Convention of 1949, which Indonesia “officially ratified” and must respect.
The symbol is unrelated to Christianity. “Indonesia is a secular, not a Muslim-based state,” he explained. It “is a state that respects pluralism”.
Jusuf Kalla, a former vice president in Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s first administration, has backed the current logo in the past.
“We should have pride in the PMI’s red colour,” said the devout Muslim from South Sulawesi and former Golkar leader on the occasion of the 66th anniversary of the organisation in September 2011.
For him, the Red Cross logo is internationally recognised and respected by all parties in warzones.
Some experts suggest that the demand to change the PMI symbol stems from the PKS’s desire to link the Indonesian Red Cross to the Islamic Red Crescent.