Fear of Nuclear Threat Grips Japanese Fending off Tsunami and Quake Ravages(邦訳あり)

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Fear of Nuclear Threat Grips Japanese Fending off Tsunami and Quake Ravages

Lutheran Churches Join Ecumenical Relief Efforts, Urge Continued Prayers and Support

TOKYO, Japan/GENEVA, 16 March (LWI)?Fear has gripped many Japanese five days after the country™fs worst earthquake and tsunami, but the tragedy has brought together Lutherans and other Christians seeking ways to help victims ecumenically.
As snow began falling on the northeastern part of Japan™fs main island of Honshu today, people there and further south in Tokyo are fearfully anxious about a pending safety threat from nuclear reactors that provide energy for the energy-starved country.
The 8.9-magnitude earthquake struck on 11 March, spawning a vicious tsunami that obliterated towns on the coast and the city of Sendai. By 16 March the death toll had risen to more than 3,700 and authorities expect it to top 10,000.
Lutherans, including member churches of The Lutheran World Federation (LWF), number about 32,000 out of the country™fs 127 million people. They have joined people of all faiths and denominations in praying for the country and its people following the biggest disaster since the Second World War and which some Japanese say is ™gthe worst disaster in 1,000 years."
™gI just came to the devastation in this country on 14 March after an LWF meeting in Malaysia,™h Rev Sumiyuki Watanabe, president of the Japan Evangelical Lutheran Church (JELC), told Lutheran World Information(LWI) earlier today from Tokyo™fs Kamata area.
He had attended the 10-13 March LWF Asia Church Leadership Conference in Kuala Lumpur, where participants offered prayers for the churches and people of Japan.
Watanabe said JELC established a rescue service relief task force and immediately started to call for support in any possible way, as well as collecting information regarding the suffering people in the area. ™gThe Lutherans, Anglicans and Roman Catholics all decided to work together along with other denominations.™h

Access to the Area

Groups wishing to provide assistance in the region hit by the quake and the resulting tsunami cannot currently get access to the area, where the Geneva-based International Federation of the Red Cross said today that half a million people have been left homeless.
The 62-year-old Watanabe, who participated in relief efforts after the massive 6.8-magnitude earthquake in 1995 that claimed more than 6,000 lives mainly around the port city of Kobe, said, ™gOur problem at the moment in offering help stems from the nuclear radiation threat and the damaged infrastructure which prevents access.™h
Only the Japan Self Defense Forces are allowed into the area where many of the roads, rail and airports were ripped up by the tsunami and where many of the ports no longer function.
JELC Vice President Rev. Isamu Aota is heading the relief task force, which includes the Kinki Evangelical Lutheran Church (KELC) and Japan Lutheran Church (JLC), that will assess the situation for needs. ™gThe task force has been set up in Ichigaya [central Tokyo], and we are discussing how different churches can cooperate with one another,™h he said.
™gHopefully we can send two or three people as early as next week to investigate how to implement what is needed,™h Aota explained.
™gIn 1995 within half a year of activities in Kansai [where the Kobe earthquake took place], we could see that the region would eventually be able to stand on its own. This time will be longer because so much of the Tohoku [northeast] has been wiped out,™h he added.
JELC has two congregations in Sendai served by one pastor. ™gApart from praying and assessing, at the moment we just have to wait until we can move,™h added Watanabe.


In letters to the LWF on 15 March, JELC, KELC and JLC appealed for prayers and support for disaster relief in the aftermath of the earthquake. ™gOur hearts ache to see the severe damage from the Tohoku Kanto earthquake. As we see the size of its devastation, there is nothing else we can do but pray to our Lord for His mercy,™h wrote JLC president Rev. Yutaka Kumei.
™gIt would seem that the matter of the nuclear reactor in Fukushima Prefecture is worsening. And as for the actual damage from both the earthquake and the tsunami, this is wholly unprecedented here in Japan. (™c) We do ask your continued prayer for us and for the victims of this very sad event,™h wrote KELC president, Rev. Shigeo Sueoka.
In Geneva, LWF General Secretary Rev. Martin Junge, who was visiting other countries in the Asia Pacific region when the disaster happened, told LWI, ™gIt is hard to imagine what it means for the people and churches in Japan, as they deal with the difficult realities in which they find themselves since the earthquake and tsunami struck five days ago.
™gLooking at the images and listening to the stories we are receiving, we recognize the enormous pastoral and diaconal challenges. We have conveyed to our member churches the prayers and solidarity that are being expressed throughout the communion, as well as our preparedness to join them in their actions to respond to these pastoral and diaconal challenges,™h said Junge.
Through its Department for World Service (DWS), the LWF will second an emergency advisor to the joint emergency task force set up by the three Lutheran churches in Japan. The aim is to assist in the coordination of their response with civil society, local authorities, faith-based relief organizations and international non-governmental organizations.
ACT Alliance, the global church emergency and development organization to which the LWF belongs, is ready to assist if further needs arise and if requested by Japanese partners. (926 words)
(Contribution from Geneva-based freelance journalist Peter Kenny.)

(LWI 2011-28)

    東京-ジュネーヴ 3月16日(LWI)


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