Bishop Keerthi from Sri Lanka came by our office today, bringing to life his thoughts on the vital issue of inter-faith co-operation and community. A story brilliantly illustrated by his episcopal cross. Made from the wood of four trees important to Sri Lankans, these meet the basic needs of all who live on the island. Food from the fruit, shelter from the branches and leaves, and income from the famous tea tree plantations. Three of the four trees in his cross are native species: palmyra wood at the top, representing the north of the island, coconut wood at the bottom, and a base made from the jackfruit tree, which nourishes the people. The arms of the cross are made from tea trees, a species brought in by the British. Amazingly, Bishop Keerthi’s own cross is made from one of these original imported specimens, planted 150 years ago. A reminder that the cultures of Sri Lanka developed closely around agriculture.
He added a charming modern parable about trees and bushes growing alongside one another, a lesson from the natural world. The large trees and small bushes of any given eco-system could in theory grow on their own, but make a much richer environment in the presence of each other. The tall tree might provide shade, while the smaller bushes can enrich the soil. We are similar, but we are not the same, and we flourish when we appreciate the benefits of sharing and inter-dependence.