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

【December 2018 No.400】The Response of the Kyodan and Its Districts to the 2018 Natural Disasters


In the early morning hours of September 6, a severe earthquake struck the eastern part of the Iburi district of Hokkaido. Measuring in spots up to a magnitude of 7.0 on the Japan Meteorological Agency’s Seismic Intensity Scale, the earthquake caused large-scale landslides, complete power failure across the entire island, and various disruptions of lifelines, resulting in 41 deaths. Reportedly, many families are still suffering with after-effects. Damage to churches and related buildings was not so severe, but with the help of other districts, Hokkai District has been transporting relief supplies to the heavily damaged areas of the eastern part of Iburi and is calling for funds from the entire church. Kyodan Secretary Kumoshikari Toshimi paid an official visit to the affected area, and the Kyodan is actively supporting Hokkai District in its efforts to provide mental and spiritual care.

There has been a spate of natural disasters in recent months. In July, the Kyodan set up the "West Japan Emergency Relief Fund" and called on all Kyodan churches to contribute. The donations received were added to the financial support received from the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan (PCT) and has been used to repair damage to churches and for general relief efforts related not only to the floods in western Japan but also to the earthquake in northern Osaka, Typhoon 21 (Jebi), and now the East Iburi Earthquake. So the request from Hokkai District is being dealt with carefully to avoid wasteful overlap.

Unlike the response to the Great East Japan Disaster of 2011 and the Kumamoto-Oita Earthquake, when the Kyodan set up a Response and Support Center under  the Executive Committee, this time a "Relief Planning Committee" has been formed under the general secretary, who will oversee these operations. In this time of climate change, there will no doubt continue to be large-scale natural disasters, so the Kyodan needs to take a further look at how best to respond.

Already the Kyodan is proactively working in mutual support with each district to send relief supplies and volunteers to disaster areas. Likewise, solidarity and exchanges are being furthered not only among Kyodan

churches but also interdenominationally—particularly among churches near affected areas —and internationally, as various church-related relief organizations send volunteers to assist. Thus, based on such experiences so far, the goal now is to further the development of this network of Kyodan churches and districts, together with other denominations both in Japan and overseas, to deal with these situations.

As mentioned above, the PCT as well as the United Church of Christ in the U.S. has sent funds to help with the relief efforts following the western Japan floods. Likewise, the Kyodan responded to the earthquake disaster in the Donggala district of the island of Sulawesi in Indonesia by sending funds through the Gereja Masehi Injili di Minahasa (GMIM) [Christian Evangelical Church in Minahasa]. Also, the Kyodan sent $10,000 through the Evangelisches Missionswerk in Solidaritat (EMS) to help with the relief efforts in the state of Kerala in India deal with the floods that occurred there in July, which took the lives of over 20,000 people. (Tr. TB)

—Akiyama Toru, general secretary

(Excerpt from a report given at the 41st Kyodan General Assembly)



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