This is the script of this morning’s Thought for the Day on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

Listening to the news about Sri Lanka this last couple of weeks, three symbols haunt my memory and imagination: tears, ammunition and a flower.

Although it was the name of a late 1970s band, The Teardrop Explodes evokes current events on the beautiful island of Sri Lanka – which, with a population of around 22 million, is shaped like a teardrop in the Indian Ocean.

In May 2009 a thirty-year civil war finally came to a brutal and bloody end, and hopes were strong that peace and ethnic reconciliation might – in time – ensue. For me this is personal as the Anglican Diocese of Leeds has a long-standing and strong link with the church there, and I have visited the island, met people from all sides of the divides, and witnessed the aftermath of extreme violence.

When I was there in autumn 2015 the second symbol – ammunition – spoke powerfully into this space. There is a monument near Jaffna in the north and close to where the final battles of the civil war were fought. Erected by the triumphant Singhalese military, it represents a shell or bullet penetrating a very large wall. The warning to the defeated Tamils was clear: we won, you lost – and you are vulnerable. As a gesture of future reconciliation it wasn’t helpful; indeed, it is solely and intentionally a reminder of past grievance and humiliation.

However, for me, the third symbol – that of a flower – hangs over this. The Bishop of Colombo gave me a pectoral cross – which reflects Christ’s suffering at Calvary. But, rather than standing alone, this cross is set into a lotus flower. And, for our link church in Sri Lanka, the lotus is a powerful symbol of the reality of violence, but rooted in the promise of resurrection – that out of suffering can come new life. In other words, death, violence and destruction do not have the final word. There is always more to be said. Resurrection isn’t just a fantasy – wishful thinking or vague hope – but new life that demands response, commitment and sacrifice if beauty and flourishing are to have half a chance.

It would be too easy artificially to resolve the tensions inherent in these three symbols: the teardrop exploding again today in frustration with corruption and the abuse of power; the penetrated wall; and the cross set in a lotus flower. But, all three speak of realism in the face of despair. A realism that takes hope seriously and commits itself to making it real. A reminder not just of historic pain, but a call to future life.