Saturday, 10 June 2017

Ride for Peace

I’m going to have another go at a weblog, this time in the form of a travelogue. This is the start of long service leave, which I’m using to go to India once more to join a motorcycle "Ride for Peace" through the Himalayas.

Every 2 years Bishop Samantaroy, head of the Church of North India’s Amritsar Diocese and currently Moderator of the CNI, leads this brilliant ministry to young men. These Rallies traverse the far north-western part of India, the Indian Punjab, Jammu & Kashmir, Ladakh and the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh, which form the extent of the Diocese and a wedge between Chinese Tibet and Pakistan. Geologically it’s a fantastically interesting part of the world, rising majestically from the northern plains into the high Himalayas. Sociologically, culturally and religiously it’s just as diverse. The four main religions of the greater region are Islam in Pakistan and throughout Kashmir, Hinduism in Jammu and various kinds of folk Hinduism in the mountain valleys of Himachal Pradesh, Buddhism and Communist Atheism in Ladakh and Tibet and Sikhism in the Punjab.  Christianity is a small minority, caught often enough between these gigantic tectonic plates of the other religions. Yet because of the British colonial and Christian heritage, preserved today by many grand churches in various stages of restoration or dilapidation, and numerous young pentecostal house churches springing up in far-flung villages and towns, Christianity plays a larger role than one might have expected.

I see the Ride for Peace as clever in several ways. First, it is a highly visible way of Christians telling both co-religionists and devotees of other religions, “We all say we are for peace. In this part of the world we Christians are too few to play power games; we have to be about peace. But what about you? What does peace actually mean to you? Are you serious about it?” In like manner the Bishop, a few years ago, made a highly visible, much photographed appearance with the Dalai Lama and Bishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu then the latter visited the former at Dharamsala. This town is, of course, the seat of the Tibetan government in exile, so Bishop Tutu was visiting the Dalai Lama. But Dharamsala also lies smack bang in the middle of the Diocese of Amritsar. So in a sense Bishop Samantaroy was hosting a colleague within the Anglican Communion.

Secondly, the Ride for Peace is brilliant ministry to young men. Bishop Samantaroy is the kind of leader who maintains a twinkle in his eye, and a youthful mien. The rule is, by all means participate in this adventure in the high Himalayas, but you must follow the rules. Rule number 1 is “No one rides in front of Bishop Sahib!” Rule number 2 is, “No one rides behind Rev Lily Samantaroy Memsahib! Men need to do things, and we need adventures to test ourselves against. If the Church does not provide the, men simply fade away from Church. If your “patch” is some of the most adventurous country in the world it makes excellent sense to use it, pastorally!

And thirdly, part of Bishop Samantaroy’s means for addressing Christianity’s minority status is to form partnerships with Churches and Christian individuals in western countries. The Diocese of Amritsar has a partnership with my Uniting Church's overseas department UnitingWorld. That has resulted in several projects that UnitingWorld, and some Uniting Church congregations support. One thing I hope to do through participating in this Ride for Peace is to persuade people to donate money to one or other of these projects. As I’ve only just managed to connect with WiFi I’ll send the link to that fund-raiser in tomorrow’s blog.

I’ll share the Ride for Peace with several German bikers from a German denomination called the Evangelische Kirche in Hesse und Nassau. EKHN is in a well-established partnership with Amritsar Diocese. There is considerable travel between the two countries by representatives of the two Churches.

And that will do for today. Tomorrow I’ll say something about my journey so far, and send you the link to that fundraiser.

Grace and peace,

David Reichardt


  1. Well, David it is a pity that we cannot ride together - but my Dean Volkhard Guth,a Friend of his, Rev. Detlev Knoche and Rev.Peter Noss will join you, so good luck all together Konrad

  2. Hi David, greetings from Germany and thank you so much for sharing your experiences with us - hope very much you will have wifi during your journey :-) Annegret (press officer in the deanery Wetterau)

  3. Annegret, I'm back in Manali, which has some wifi connections. I'll try to write a few more reflections before I leave for Delhi tomorrow.

  4. Where are your posts from the travel?