Japan’s ecumenical office responds to ‘triple disaster’

July 28, 2011

TOKYO

The Japan Ecumenical Disaster Response Office (JEDRO) said it will support anti-nuclear activities and an interdenominational and interfaith response to the aftermath of the March 11 earthquake, tsunami and Fukushima nuclear power plant accident.

The office plans to hold a worship service in remembrance of the disaster on the six-month anniversary, Sept. 11, together with the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan and the Japan Evangelical Alliance.

“My prayer is that the ecumenical partners will not forget the survivors who continue to face very serious challenges,” said Victor Hsu, the office’s ecumenical consultant and visiting professor at the KDI School of Public Policy and Management in Seoul, South Korea, in an interview with ENInews.

In its new English Web site, the Tokyo-based office, known as JEDRO, affiliated with the National Christian Council in Japan (NCCJ), describes itself as “a joint Christian effort to respond to the Japan Triple Disaster, established ... to support locally initiated humanitarian relief and rehabilitation projects with a network of international ecumenical cooperation.”

More than 15,000 people were killed by the disaster, with 5,300 still missing and 5,700 injured, according to Japan’s National Police Agency.

The office is supporting “Tohoku HELP,” a response that was begun in March by interdenominational Christians and builds on the initial work of the Sendai Christian Alliance Disaster Relief Network near the epicenter off the Japanese northeastern coastal city of Sendai. The Japanese word “Tohoku” means “northeast.”

Since June, Tohoku HELP has evolved into an inter-faith organization with active participation of Buddhist organizations.

The office also supports anti-nuclear activities based on the NCCJ’s statement to Prime Minister Naoto Kan dated April 11, 2011. Entitled, “Declaration on Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant,” the statement expressed the NCCJ’s objection to the government’s nuclear policy, noted it had been “unable to prevent nuclear power plants” and demanded a total abolishment of “all domestic nuclear power plants and related facilities.”

“Manifesting the unity of the Church of Jesus Christ, JEDRO seeks to be a tangible and visible sign of hope for the people in Japan, especially the survivors, through active engagement in relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction, and advocacy for alternative, safe and environmentally-sound renewal energy,” the office’s mission statement says. “It will also address the spiritual and psychological trauma of a devastated nation that thirsts for an ethical, responsive and compassionate government.”

The office was established in June, following the Japan Earthquake/Tsunami Relief Ecumenical Solidarity Meeting that Hsu chaired in Seoul, South Korea, from May 6-7 and urged Japan’s churches and Christian councils to establish a consortium to respond to the disaster.

“The warm support and assistance of our ecumenical partners is deeply appreciated. We cannot fulfill our mission task alone,” the NCCJ’s moderator, the Rev. Isamu Koshiishi, wrote on June 27 to the NCCJ’s ecumenical partners.

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