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Last Updated: Thursday, 9 November 2006, 20:57 GMT
Red poppy 'less Christian' claim
Poppies on wooden crucifixes
The red poppy is a symbol of remembrance for fallen soldiers
A Christian lobby group has claimed the wearing of red poppies is "politically correct" and stifles debate.

The director of Ekklesia, Jonathan Bartley, said people should be able to choose between red or white ones.

He added red poppies implied redemption through war, but Christianity seeks redemption through non-violence. White ones were created to symbolise peace.

The Royal British Legion said the red version was "a symbol of the need to... reflect on the human cost of war".

Mr Bartley told the BBC: "The red poppy suggests the idea that our soldiers died for freedom but that's not a value-free position."

Flower has been symbol of remembrance since 1921 for those who died during the two World Wars and other conflicts
Canadian doctor John McCrae wrote a poem in his pocket book in 1915 called In Flanders Fields
Poem eventually published in Punch Magazine and the poppy became popular symbol for those killed in battle
In 1918 American Moira Michael wrote a poem in reply We Shall Keep the Faith promising to wear a poppy in honour of the dead, beginning tradition of remembrance poppies
First Poppy Day held in Britain on November 11, 1921, and hailed a success, raising 106,000

The Co-operative Women's Guild produced the first white version in 1933 as a symbol for peace.

Mr Bartley, writing in an edition of the Anglican newspaper The Church Times, said British public figures wore the red poppy almost as an "article of faith" while simultaneously being told not to wear items like crucifixes.

He said: "The Christian tradition, and specifically the crucifix, have a great deal in common with the poppy.

"Both are linked to sacrifice. Both take a location of bloodshed and violence and make a statement about it.

"And both attempt to give us hope in the face of death. They imply that those who died did not do so in vain.

"But whilst apparently banned from wearing one symbol of hope, the cross, public figures in Britain are simultaneously urged, indeed in many cases, required, to wear another, the red poppy, almost as an article of faith.

"There is a political correctness about the red poppy, which often goes unnoticed."

Pic credit: Peace Pledge Union @ PeaceWorks
White poppy: an alternative symbol

Mr Bartley, a member of the Church of England, has also said churches should offer congregations alternatives to the red poppy, such as the white one.

A spokesman for The Royal British Legion said: "The Legion cannot comment on matters spiritual. Our concern is with remembrance and the welfare of the living.

The Red Poppy is an internationally-recognised symbol of remembrance and has been so since the end of the First World War.

"Churches, who host so many services of remembrance, should at least give people the choice, and make white poppies more widely available, alongside red ones."

"The Legion held the first Poppy Appeal in 1921 to raise money for its welfare work in the ex-service community and since then it has encouraged the wearing of the red poppy as a poignant symbol of the need to pause and reflect on the human cost of war."

The BBC's religious affairs correspondent, Robert Pigott, accepts that Ekklesia's call for parity for the white poppy is provocative.

I wear red. The red poppy is not a religious or PC symbol
Ed, Teesside

He also reports that the white version has been a controversial symbol since being introduced by anti-war groups 73 years ago.

Meanwhile Channel 4 newsreader Jon Snow, criticised by some viewers for not wearing a poppy on air, has explained his decision not to adopt the symbol.

Writing in a blog, the journalist explained: "I am begged to wear an Aids Ribbon, a breast cancer ribbon, a Marie Curie flower... You name it, from the Red Cross to the RNIB, they send me stuff to wear to raise awareness, and I don't.

"And in those terms, and those terms alone, I do not and will not wear a poppy.

"Additionally there is a rather unpleasant breed of poppy fascism out there - 'he damned well must wear a poppy!'.

"Well I do, in my private life, but I am not going to wear it or any other symbol on air."


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