“People are our priority” - The Archbishop of The Anglican Communion in Japan

“People are our priority” - The Archbishop of The Anglican Communion in Japan

The latest statement from the Archbishop of the Nippon Sei Ko Kai (The Anglican Communion in Japan) The Most Revd Nathaniel Makoto Uematsu on the situation in Japan

22 March, 2011

Ten days have past since the major magnitude 9 earthquake which happened in regions from Tohoku to Kanto on the 11th March. The major tsunami, which hit Japan immediately after the earthquake, reached a huge area from Hokkaido to Kanto. The tsunami, which was over 10 metres, brought complete destruction to many towns and villages along the coastline.

We Japanese are accustomed to earthquakes and tsunamis, however no one could have imagined that such a major earthquake or tsunami could have happened. As of today, more than 8,400 people are confirmed dead and still 12,000 people are missing. There are more than 300,000 people who are enduring hardship at various evacuation centres.

The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactor's cooling system has completely failed as a result of this catastrophe. This has resulted in people living within 30 kilometres to be evacuated from the area. At the nuclear reactor site, there are people working tirelessly to solve the problem of the cooling system. However, people are already discovering levels of radiation in the milk and vegetables available in the locality. Everybody is therefore concerned about the further spread of the radiation.

Immediately after the major earthquake, I began to receive many messages of support and concern from churches, mission agencies and people all around the world. Both my computer and the one at the Provincial office receive such emails on a daily basis. They are all messages in which people express concern for our safety and also messages of support, sympathy and unity.

I am very grateful for such concern from everybody, and I am also very sorry to say that I am unable to respond individually to these people at the present time. I have also received many offers of money and goods for the relief effort from Provinces, churches, mission agencies and individuals. Again, I am really grateful for these offers. The Provincial office has established a fund to deal with donations. Also, I have received many inquiries about what people can do to help the victims and Japanese churches. Some say they are prepared to send relief medical teams and relief volunteers, others want to know what items are most needed by those affected. To respond to all of these queries let me explain the current situation of the Nippon Sei Ko Kai.

Ten days have passed since the major earthquake and in the areas affected by the disaster relief activities have begun. But because the destruction was so significant, there are many areas where the basic infrastructure such as electricity and water supply has not been restored. Also, because such a huge area was affected, such things as food, water, petrol and medical supplies have not reached the affected people. Such hardship has been broadcast by the media, not just to Japan, but to the rest of the world. Such images of suffering caused many people to respond: "I want to go out to the region and help these people. I want to go and deliver food and other necessities now!" This is why we have received so many offers of help.

But as time passes some restoration of the transport network and also distribution of food and other supplies have begun. Use of personal transporation to deliver supplies to affected areas has been restricted [by the government]. Even the church are unable to deliver goods to the devastated areas at the moment.

Regarding relief volunteers, because there is no structure or system to receive these people in the devastated areas at the moment, only the official public servants such as doctors, nurses, Japan's Defence Regiment personel and fire fighters, police, medical centre staff and local council staff members are allowed to provide care to those affected.

Regarding Tohoku Diocese, all the church can do there at this present time is work out the extent of the damage to church buildings and other facilities [kindergartens, nurseries, etc.], and confirm the safety of its parishioners. In the future, once the extent of the damage to churches and other facilities becomes clear, I anticipate that volunteers from other Anglican dioceses across Japan will travel to Tohoku to help with relief and rehabilitation activities.

Churches in Tohoku Diocese and also some churches in Kita Kanto Diocese have sustained some damage to their buildings and facilities following the earthquake. I know that we will need to consider the rebuilding of these in the future. Also, many of the houses belonging to parishioners were damaged. We will need to rebuild these also. This all needs to be done after we know the extent of the damage and calculate the cost. At that time, the NSKK will run a fundraising campaign to help the reconstruction efforts.

This having been said, staff of the ‘Tohoku Earthquake Relief & Rehabilitation Task Force HQ’ at the Provincial office and of the relief centre in Tohoku Diocese consider the people affected by the disaster to be the church's priority. In most of the areas affected by the disaster there are no Anglican churches, however it is the NSKK's desire to stand with all people there and to do whatever we can to support them.

The relief and rescue phase will soon end, but the the restoration phase will go on for a long time. As the NSKK, particularly as Tohoku Diocese, we believe that it is during this second phase when God will most use us to do his work.

Nippon Sei Ko Kai is a small Church. Tohoku Diocese is a small diocese within that small Church. So we know that what we can do is limited. We recognise it will be necessary to work with others outside of the Anglican Church and outside of religious organisations. We will need to partner with ecumenical partners, the government, private organisations, and non-profit organisations and non-governmental organisations in order to do this relief and restoration work.

For those churches and organisations overseas who have offered to send us medical teams, medical supplies and pharmaceutical goods, please contact the Red Cross, the Japanese Embassy or Consulate in your country.

Finally, I would like to express my utmost gratitude for the prayers and warm words which were sent to me from everybody. I would like you to continue to pray for the ongoing relief and restoration work.


The Most Revd Nathaniel Makoto Uematsu
The Archbishop of the Nippon Sei Ko Kai (The Anglican Communion in Japan)

Source: ACNS

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