Japan diocese opens support centre following earthquakes

4 May 2016

Damaged pedestrian arcade in downtown Kumamoto. Credit: Hyolee2/Wikimedia Commons

The Anglican Communion in Japan is drawing on its experience of the 2011 tsunami to respond to the powerful earthquakes that struck the island nation last month.

Twin earthquakes of 6.5 and 7.3-magnitude on 14 and 16 April caused extensive damage in Kumamoto prefecture on Kyushu, the southern island of Japan, killing over 65 people and injuring nearly 1,600.

Anglicans in Kumamoto were among the 112,100 who had to evacuate, the Diocese of Kyushu of Nippon Sei Ko Kai (NSKK – the Anglican Communion in Japan) reported. As of 1 May, 23,246 people had still not been able to return to their homes, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

The emergency aid organization Japan Platform reported that some 40,039 houses or other buildings were either totally or partially destroyed. Many people have been sleeping in their cars out of fear of possible building collapse due to the ongoing tremors in the area, over 1,000 to date.

The Diocese of Kyushu has opened up Holy Trinity church in Kumamoto as a support centre for those affected by the earthquakes. Among those staffing the response efforts are the Revd Shibamoto and Hisao Yamomoto, who worked tirelessly assisting victims of the devastating earthquake and ensuing tsunami in March 2011. The team are assessing the needs locally as well as generating funds from within the province. They urge people to send financial support rather than rushing to Kumamoto to help or sending goods. Episcopal Relief & Development is giving financial support to NSKK through the province. The Diocese appreciates the statement of solidarity it has received from its companion link diocese in the Central Philippines.

After the crisis – post-quake lessons

After a recent visit to Japan, Haiti and Nepal, Anglican Alliance board member Dr Robert Radtke, President of Episcopal Relief & Development, reflected on lessons learned from the earthquake disasters in the three countries, including the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake.

He noted how essential it is to have responsive national and local government that people trust. A second core learning is the impact of building a culture of disaster risk reduction that combines preparedness with dedicated investment in long-term recovery.

Most importantly for the Anglican Communion is how local churches and NGOs, together with international organizations, can support community-based preparedness, recovery and rebuilding in a vital way that supports everyone whether they are members of a faith community or not.

He noted that the Anglican Church in Japan had a vibrant and important ministry among the thousands of people who had still not been able to return to their homes or relocate to new permanent homes following the Great East Japan Earthquake.

“NSKK [is providing] a singular example of how faith communities continue to offer care and compassion many years after the initial crisis is over.”

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