日本基督教団 The United Church of Christ in Japan

Message from the General Secretary: 20th Anniversary of the Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake Observed in Kobe


There are several anniversaries that the Kyodan cannot and must not forget.  One of them is the Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake that struck early on the morning of Jan. 17, 1995. So this past Jan. 17 was the 20th anniversary of that tragic event.  The Kyodan’s Hyogo District held a memorial service that evening at Kobe Eiko Church, which was totally destroyed during the earthquake and rebuilt as a beautiful church in the years immediately following.


The 350 worshipers listened to the call to worship from Jonah 2:6: “To the roots of the mountains I sank down; the earth beneath barred me in forever. But you, Lord my God, brought my life up from the pit.”  It was a time of remembrance for the 6,434 lives that were lost, including more than 500 children, as the people contemplated that event.


Miyamoto Makiko, a member of Koto Church in Nishinomiya, gave a message entitled, “Continuing to grapple with it in the midst of encounters.” She told of the many experiences she had as a volunteer in the months following the earthquake as a member of the support group for handicapped children affected by the earthquake.  She also then described her gratefulness for being able to utilize these experiences in helping mothers facing similar suffering following the East Japan Disaster and the accompanying nuclear accident.


As I recall, on the fifth anniversary of the 1995 earthquake, Hyogo District made this statement in a report on its mission as an affected district: “We believe that the God of history, who has revealed himself in Jesus Christ, has stood with us during this disaster.  As we face the realities of the aftermath of the earthquake, our efforts have been based on the realization that ‘without the rebuilding of the local community, the restoration of the local church is not possible,’ and so we view this as our response of faith as we stand before God.”


Immediately following this 20th anniversary memorial service, Hyogo District Moderator Sugane Nobuhiko expressed in his greetings the stance of the district towards the future. “During this past year of 2014, we need to be cognizant of the fact that 40 people among those still living in the temporary housing facilities set up after the quake died lonely deaths, so we should not think of this 20th anniversary as a closure.  We need to continue to extend the hand of support to those still suffering, with no sense that this episode is now simply a thing of the past.”


In this land of frequent natural disasters, the Kyodan has had to deal with the aftermath of several earthquakes in recent years. Since the Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake in 1995, the Niigata Chuetsu Earthquake occurred on Oct. 23, 2004, the Noto Peninsula Earthquake on March 25, 2007, the Niigata Chuetsu Offshore Earthquake on July 16, 2007, and of course, the East Japan Disaster on March 11, 2011.  In each of these situations, the Kyodan has rallied behind those affected, conducting fund drives to help with rebuilding and offering support in the pain and suffering of the people affected. This has particularly been so in the relief efforts following the East Japan Disaster, when the earthquake and tsunami were accompanied by a nuclear catastrophe, with its ongoing threat that has no clear resolution in view.  Nevertheless, the Kyodan’s Tohoku District Nuclear Disaster Relief Task Force “Izumi,” the current response, will be formally ending its nationwide funding campaign at the end of March 2015 and phasing out its other activities in the Sendai, Ishinomaki, and Kamawishi areas by the end of March 2017. (Tr. TB)


—Nagasaki Tetsuo, general secretary

日本基督教団には、忘れられないというより忘れてはならないいくつかの「記念の日」がある。去る1月17日は、1995年のその日の早朝襲った「兵庫県南部大地震」の20周年に当たる日であった。その夜、教団兵庫教区は、この記念の日に当たり、追悼礼拝をあの地震で跡形無く瓦解し、それを何 年もかけて見事再建した神戸栄光教会を会場として主催した。

 集まった350名の礼拝者は、招詞「わたしは山々の基まで、地の底まで沈み、地はわたしの上に永久に扉を閉ざす。しかし、我が神、主よあ なたは命を滅びの 穴から引き上げてくださった」(ヨナ書二章七節)に耳そばだてた。御 詞によって、亡くなった子ども五百人以上を含む6434人の命を忍んで厳粛にさ れ、あの大地震が引き起こした出来事を思い起こしたのである。

 説教をした宮本真希子氏は、「出会いの中で問 われ続けて」と題して行い、震災直後から「被災『生涯』児・者支援の会」員としての働きを通じて、ボランテアの人々との出会いと、東 日本大震災の原発事故によって引き起こされている苦しむ母親たちとの出会いを豊かな恵みとして受け止め、感謝して語った。

 思えば、兵庫教区は、「被災教区の震災五年目の宣教にあたっての告白」の中で、「わたしたちは、イエス・キリストにおい て歴史に掲示された神は、被災のただ中にも臨在されていることを信じる。-わたしたちが被災の現実の中で、『地域の再生なくして、教 会の復興はありえない』として歩んで来たことが、神の前に立つわたしたちの信仰の応答である」と告白としている。この日、菅根信彦議 長は礼拝後の 挨拶で、「兵庫教区は、昨年2014年一年間だけで架設住宅で孤独死40人の方のことを覚えても、20周年を切れ目とは思えず、またこれを過去のことと切れ目をつけない で、引き続き救援の手を休めることはしない」と語って、今後の教区の姿勢を明らかにした。

 自然災害の多いこの国土において日本基督教団は、 兵庫県南部大地震以降、新潟中越地震(2004・10・23)、能登半島地震(2007.3.25)、新潟中越沖地震(2007.7.16)、東日本大震災(2011.3.11)とたて続けに起こった災害に対して、主として礼拝堂・牧師館復興のために全力をあげて救援募金を献げ、その痛みと困難に 寄り添い、祈りを一つとすることが出来ていることを主にあって幸いとして来た。中でも、東日本大震災には自然災害に加えて放射能汚染 被害が地域に拡散しており、この復興は政府も目処がつかない状況を呈している。教団は、この案件を東北教区の放射能対策室「いずみ」の働きに委ねつつも、来る2015年3月31日を持って全国募金を終了し、2017年3月31日には仙台・石巻・釜石における活動の全てを終了する。(長崎哲夫総幹事)


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