Japanese dioceses send help to disaster areas

Shinya Yawata, International Secretary of the Nippon Sei Ko Kai (The Anglican Church in Japan), tells the Anglican Communion News Service about the situation in Japan and how Anglicans across the country are responding.

The overall impact of earthquake and tsunami according to the government has been:

Death: about 13,200 people

Missing: about 14,300 people

Displaced: about 167,000 people

Totally demolished homes: 52,800 homes

Most damage has been caused by the tsunami rather than earthquake itself. In addition we are facing the potential impact of nuclear radiation caused by malfunction of the nuclear power plant. We are experiencing many aftershocks with some of them causing more damage to already weakened structures.

You can learn more about the scale of this disaster in the media. I, however, will concentrate here on how our churches have been affected and how responding to the needs of those affected, including those who are not Anglicans.

Except in a few places the structural damage to churches and related institutions in the diocese of Tohoku and Kita Kanto is relatively minor. I can report that, miraculously, the tsunami did very little damage to buildings.

In Tohoku diocese Sendai Christ Church building was badly damaged by the earthquake and not the tsunami although parts of the city of Sendai along the coastal line were destroyed by the tsunami. The church building has been designated as unsafe. Therefore services have been held in the parish hall. All other churches in Tohoku diocese have avoided damage from the tsunami because they are located far enough from the shore or on higher ground. They have, however, suffered varying levels of earthquake damage, including cracked or fallen walls and windows, damaged ceilings, broken furniture, etc. None are totally demolished. Many churches in Tohoku diocese have kindergartens attached. Some of the parents of the children who attend these report that they have lost their homes, shops, stores and farmland.

One person in the diocese was killed and two are still missing. All three are lay members of the church. None of the clergy were lost.

In Kita Kanto diocese 2 church buildings were badly damaged. St Stephen’s Church in Mito city lost its bell tower. It was so badly damaged that it had to be torn down immediately for safety reasons. The church building of St. Andrew’s Church in Hitachi city has a damaged ceiling, cracked/fallen walls, cracks on ground, etc. Few others have suffered damage but none have been totally destroyed. There are no reports of human casualties in Kita Kanto diocese.

Several dioceses within NSKK have started providing pastoral care for Anglicans by regularly sending out their clergy, and this applies to both parishes and attached kindergartens. At the time of this calamity the diocese of Tohoku had nine ordained personnel including one from Anglican Church of Korea plus one bishop to cover vast area of six prefectures. St Timothy in Onahama and Grace Church in Kamaishi are this case. In addition a couple of more churches will be receiving clergy from diocese of Yokohama and Tokyo.

Thus far, the major area of relief work for affected people is supplying food and necessary goods for daily life, such as cooking fuel, clean towels, clothing, etc. As already reported on the Anglican Communion News Service, supplies of food have been delivered to elderly people by an ecumenical group based at St. Timothy Church in Onahama, Iwaki-shi. Personnel from three dioceses in Kansai, Osaka, Kobe and Kyoto dioceses, are travelling to the area to assist with that initiative.

In Kamaishi city where the tsunami caused wide-spread devastation there is one church, Grace Church, Kamaishi with a nursery school attached. This location will become a very important focal point for local community services. This site will become a safe place for children and mental care will be provided for children whose parent(s) have been lost. To do this Tohoku diocese will receive personnel assistance from the diocese of Hokkaido. At the moment food supplies are the priority but, as with St. Timothy Church in Onahama, the nature of the relief work will eventually change when food becomes more widely available.

Currently all these activities are responses to immediate needs. Until things change the Provincial Office will focus on providing care where and when it is required. However, at a Provincial-level meeting yesterday staff there, along with other diocesan representatives , agreed to establish a taskforce located in Sendai. This team will conduct a needs assessment to identify where NSKK should focus its efforts. Following a recommendation from the taskforce, an implementation team will be established. All this will, however, take some time to carry out.

Please continue to keeps us in your prayers.

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