When I had an opportunity to speak on my birth country at the SAC Day of Prayer, I chose to focus on something that some may consider unspiritual: the Sri Lankan flag. Whether gently blowing in the wind at a Commonwealth Summit or being waved passionately by cricket fans at the Premadasa Stadium, this flag tells a story of the people who inhabit Sri Lanka, or Ceylon (as it was known prior to 1972).
The lion on the flag is representative of the majority Sinhala people and is surrounded by four Bo leaves which depict the four concepts of Buddhism. This pairing is reflective of the strong Sinhala Buddhist community, which, as of the 2012 census, comprises 74% of the total population. The left-hand side of the flag represents the principal minority people groups: the Tamil population and the Muslim descendants of ancient Arab settlers, signified by respective orange and green stripes. A maroon coloured background symbolises the minority faiths and is framed by a gold border for minority ethnicities such as the Burghers, descendants of bygone European settlers.
Sri Lanka, the land that gave cinnamon to the world (amongst a wealth of other produce, such as Ceylon Tea) was a serendipitous discovery for ancient traders from the Western and Arab worlds who were sailing in search of exotic spices. It has much to offer those who visit. The Sinharaja Forest, one of the primary tropical rain forests, is lush with a multitude of flora and fauna. There are miles of sandy beaches, two wild life sanctuaries and ancient civilisation cities with monumental architectural feats dating back over 2000 years. The ‘teardrop of India’ is also home to the city of Sigiriya, an ancient rock fortress that features 5th century frescoes. It is UNESCO’s 8th Wonder of the World.
The population of the island is over 21 million, with the former capital city, Colombo, being most densely populated. A nation that is high on the rag trade, does not disappoint a bargain hunter for some fashion items. Shopkeepers and locals are naturally personable, even I, at times, am taken aback at how easily the locals communicate with strangers.
Despite the natural beauty and splendour for which we give God thanks, there is still much to pray for in order to bring this beautiful island closer to God’s heartbeat:
• Reconciliation work carried out around the country, that people will identify their need to join in the healing process following civil war.
• That government funding and development measures will increase and so help eradicate poverty in the coastal areas.
• That children would be treasured and nurtured. Issues range from parental neglect to physical and sexual abuse to child prostitution.
• That the church will declare the Truth of the Gospel in love to those who are seekers.
London School of Theology