By Hanif Haasheem —
Symbols create the world around us. Two fingers usually represent a universal language of peace. The upward curvature of the lips usually represent a smile, whether it contains an ulterior motive or a pure one. The fist is symbolic of anger or an expression of sheer determination to win. An open hand could express a warm greeting, a question, or a command to stop.
There is a story behind every symbol. Whether it is a circular in nature or a shape encapsulated by an x amount of sides, anything can be used to represent a symbol. More than the lines and colors that create a symbol, it is the stories that create the significance.
Religion, in particular, is woven into the global landscape. According to the Pew Research Center, 84% of the world population was religious in 2010. Religion is influential for many nations and a hope to many people.
According to the Pew Research Center, 64 nations have a religious symbol on their nation’s flag. Among the religious symbols, 31 flags have Christian symbols and 21 flags had Islamic symbols: two of the world’s largest religions. There are also five flags that have Buddhist and Hindu symbols and one flag with a symbol from Judaism. Six other flags also had religious symbols, but they pertained to a variety of other religions.
These two findings support one another, in the sense that most of the people in the world have a religious identity. Religion provides a hope, a promise, and acts as a guide. People are on a constant search for a better future, solution to their problems, and something to fill the empty void. It is no wonder that the people that make up each nation rally under a banner crested with a religious symbol. What better symbol would there be than a symbol that already signifies unity, peace, hope, and love?
Each nation has a history as to why such a symbol is woven into each respective flag.
There are a group of flags that contain the Nordic cross. Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Iceland are some of these nations that have the Nordic cross as the religious symbol on their flag. The cross is the Crusader’s cross and it is used to represent Christianity.
The Georgian flag contains the St. George’s Cross which is also the cross adopted by the Crusaders. The four small crosses on each corner of the flag is said to symbolize when Giorgi V defeated the Mongols. Also, it is said that the five crosses in total are supposed to represent the five holy wounds of Christ. The Georgian flag was adopted in 2004.
The Republic of The Marshall Islands is another flag that contains a Christian Cross. The four longer points on the star represent the cross, which also represents the country’s Christian faith.
The Slovakian flag also contains a cross that symbolizes the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is the same one that was used by the Byzantine Empire since the 9th century.
The base color of the Turkish flag is red, a traditional Islamic color. The crescent and star are Islamic symbols, but these symbols were used in Asia Minor before the start of Islam.
The Islamic Republic of Iran is decorated with “Allahu Akbar,” written in Kufic script 22 times. The coat of arms symbolizes the growth of the Muslim faith. The sword represents the strength and fortitude of the nation. Also, the symbol in the middle of the flag is supposed to represent the Five Pillars of Islam.
The Flag of Saudi Arabia also represents Islam. The color green has connections with Mohammad the prophet. The Shahada is in the center of the flag, the statement of faith that reads, “There is no God but Allah and Mohammad is the Prophet of Allah.” Additionally the sword represents the first king of Saudi Arabia.
Similar to most of the Islamic flags, the Iraqi flag also has the words “God is great” written in Arabic.
The red, white, black and green that one finds in flags related to Islam are also known as the pan-Arab colors. These colors have a history in connection with the Arabic people and Islamic faith for many centuries.
Hinduism and Buddhism
The Cambodian flag have colors and symbols that represent both religious groups. The white stands for the religion and the color red represents the nation. The country first started with Hinduism, later becoming Buddhist. The Angkor Wat temple, now a Buddhist temple, represents the structure of the universe.
The flag of India has colors that represent two different religious groups in India: saffron stripe represents the Hindus and the green stripe represents the Muslims. The white stripe in between represents the hope of unification of the two groups and it also represents truth. The 24-spoked wheel or the Ashoka Chakra has significance for both Buddhists and Hindus.
The flag of Israel has the Star of David, representing the Jewish faith. It is the only flag that has this symbol.
These are some of the flags that have religious symbols. More than the history as to why it was used and what it means to the nation that uses it, the richest history and meaning of these symbols pertaining to each nation can be found within the respective scriptures. That is where the origin of each symbol can be found. Ultimately these symbols represent the believers of that religion. The best place to learn is from the origin, the source, or the scriptures.