14 March, 2011
On the 11th of March at 2:46pm, the biggest earthquake ever to hit Japan struck just off the coast of the Tohoku region. This caused a tsunami and fires that brought massive devastation to a very wide area. This unimaginably strong earthquake triggered an explosion at the Fukushima No.1 nuclear reactor. The people living in the area around that and the No. 2 reactor have been evacuated. The stories and images constantly broadcast by the media have left people lost for words, unable to describe the sheer scale of the unbelievable devastation caused by the earthquake, tsunami and fires.
We see homes devastated, whole towns that were swallowed by the tsunami, and houses that continue to burn because fire fighters are unable to reach both the properties and the people who were the victims of this catastrophe. With hearts filled with grief and helplessness we see people who are mourning their lost loved ones and others who search tirelessly for missing family members. There are so many who have lost their homes and possessions. Towns and villages were obliterated by the tsunami, everything was gone in a second.
Since the earthquake the Provincial office has worked very hard to find out about the people and the churches in Tohoku diocese. However, we could neither contact them by phone nor email. Only yesterday were we able to start to see a picture of the devastation in the affected areas. I had been most concerned that I could not contact the Bishop of Tohoku diocese [The Rt Revd John Hiromichi Kato], but on Saturday he rang me and I was able to find out more about what had happened to the churches in Sendai City.
Bp Kato explained that he himself had not been able to find out much about the other churches in the diocese of Tohoku. This was largely due to the fact that neither power supplies nor telephone lines had been restored in areas most badly hit by the tsunami. There is particular concern for two churches: Isoyama St Peter’s Church in Fukushima Prefecture and Kamaishi Shinai Church and the kindergarten in Iwate that were close to the sea. Priests have been frantically trying to confirm that their parishioners are safe. We also know that it is not only Tohoku diocese that has been affected, some churches in Kita Kanto diocese have been reported to have been damaged also.
Sendai Christchurch (the Cathedral church) is badly damageand yesterday, while there were still so many aftershocks, the church carried out their first Sunday after Lent service in the diocesan office.
In many affected areas there are roadblocks but as for Tohoku diocese the church is planning to establish an emergency relief centre within the diocesan building. Bishop Kato will lead the efforts to respond to the crisis.
At a Provincial level I am working to establish a structure for responding to this unprecedented natural disaster as soon as possible. This will include providing relief and sourcing volunteers and funding to help with the restoration of the affected areas. I am also trying to find more accurate information about our church family and the relief efforts, and to communicate that information as quickly as possible.
What we can do right now, however, is pray. Prayer has power. I hope and request that you pray for the people who are affected, for those who have died and for their families. Pray for the people involved with the rescue efforts, and in particular pray for Tohoku and Kita Kanto dioceses and their priests and parishioners during this time of Lent.
I am grateful for all the many prayers and messages of support from throughout the world; from the Archbishop of Canterbury and other Churches.
“Sendai Christchurch (the Cathedral church) is badly damaged”
This connection (by name) of the Cathedral in Sendai, Japan is a salutary link between our two Cathedrals: in Christchurch, New Zealand, and in Sendai. Both cathedrals, under the patronage of Christ, have suffered grievously in the natural disasters that have overtaken us. This Lent, we will have much to share with Christ of His own suffering, which was undertaken for the redemption of the World.
May God bless and keep the people of Japan as they struggle with the devastating aftermath of the Earthquake and the following Tsunami. For the many lives that have been lost, and grieved over, our prayers are asked: ‘Oh God, in your mercy receive the souls of the dead and dying, and comfort the hearts and minds of those who are left behind; through the grace of your Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Father ron Smith