'MOTORCYCLE RIDE FOR RWANDA'

By Julian Lewis

Southern Daily Echo – 9 June 2005

I have a vague childhood memory of a televison sketch featuring a group of trampolining nuns. I spent two days of the Bank Holiday in the company of the next best thing: motorcycling vicars!

Those 48 hours took me and my pillion passenger, Judith Symes, fresh from a gallant but sadly unsuccessful attempt to win Brighton Kemptown for the Conservatives, to more churches and cathedrals than I had ever seen in a concentrated period.

This was the Ride for Rwanda, a week-long tour covering more than 1,200 miles to raise money  for an exceptionally good cause. The aim is to complete the construction of the first training college for Christian pastors in Rwanda.

It is now 11 years since the dreadful genocide when organised machete gangs murdered thousands upon thousands of innocent people for no other reason than their ethnic origin. Not only were Tutsis the victims, so were many educated and moderate Hutus who would have strongly opposed the massacres. This has left huge gaps in society and a country of deeply traumatised people – including some who were forced to kill their own neighbours were they not to have been murdered themeselves.

The importance of the Church in supporting and rebuilding civil society in theis beautiful but devastated country cannot be overestimated. Yet, many communities have only lay leaders in their churches and even those with pastors are led by individuals with the most basic levels of education.

The original Ride for Rwanda, organised by Canon Geoffrey Daintree from Eastbourne, raised £38,000 in 1997. The latest one is intended to complete the building of the country's first College of Higher Education, which will become a centre for the training of pastors and may eventually become a fully-fledged university.

Having participated in the first two days of the ride myself, it was a pleasure to welcome Canon Geoffrey and his team when they reached All Saints Church, Hordle.