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

【April 2020 No.407】From the General Secretary's Desk:Covid-19: Reflections in the Midst of the Latest Pandemic


The new corona virus that first appeared in Wuhan, Hubei Province in China has rapidly spread around the world and is now considered to be approaching pandemic status. In Japan, beginning with the more than 3,000 passengers on the cruise ship Diamond Princess and the spread of the virus in Hokkaido, there are now increasing numbers of cases outside of these clusters where the source of the virus is unclear. Thus, the fight to stop the spread of this virus has entered a new phase. In response to Japan becoming a focus of world-wide attention, the Japanese government hastily made the decision to close all elementary, middle, and high schools nationwide for the month of March, leaving school staff to scramble to deal with all sorts of issues.

The news is full of reports of families with both parents working and even just families with small children being in a state of confusion as to what to do. Likewise, the issues of how to provide relief for those forced to stay home from work and other political and economic effects have also contributed to a heightening sense of urgency. At any rate, we are faced with a situation of inadequate testing and preparation for treatment as the number of people infected surges. With those dying from pneumonia as a result of this virus continuing to increase, the level of confusion and anxiety likewise rises.

Although a few of our Kyodan members had family members who were aboard the Diamond Princess or who are medical staff dealing with victims of the virus, there is presently no sign of the virus spreading within our churches, so we have simply been urging all congregations to follow recommended prevention procedures, including of course, frequent washing of hands and gargling. Many of our churches have associated kindergartens and daycare centers. Elderly people, who make up a large percentage of our membership, are particularly vulnerable, with most deaths occurring in that age group, as we all know. The risk of spreading infection is high when people are in close contact, as they are in worship services, so this is definitely a concern. We have heard of Roman Catholic churches canceling mass, but at present we are leaving it up to individual congregations to decide for themselves whether or not to cancel services. As a precaution, however, unless there is some emergency situation, we will suspend all Kyodan-level committee meetings and other such gatherings, including canceling the hosting of overseas guests, the missionary conference that was scheduled at Kiyosato, and the Joint Japanese-Korean Prayer for Reconciliation and Peace event that was to be held in Seoul.

We well remember the anxiety felt during other epidemics, such as the fairly recent SARS and MERS outbreaks and all the way back to the cholera epidemic (1858-1902) that killed a great many people during the Meiji Era. This time, however, chaos and anxiety seem particularly heightened as the new corona virus is occurring in an age of globalization in which news travels very quickly via the Internet and a Social Networking Service (SNS). This virus might just be a warning from heaven against our overconfidence in thinking we humans can do anything through the development of genetic engineering and artificial intelligence.

In this situation of a potential pandemic, I am reminded of the comparison made in Acts 24:5 of the existence of Christians as being like a plague. When Paul stood before Roman Governor Felix, the spokesman for the Jewish ruling elders, Tertullus, said, “For we have found this man a plague, one who stirs up riots among all the Jews throughout the world and is a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes.” So there you have it; both a plague and the gospel have the power to rapidly spread from one person to the next, and through that to have a great effect that changes the world. In both cases, the presence of an invisible “wind—pneuma” is the key to its spread.

The big difference, however, is that a plague drives people apart, while the gospel brings people together into one body.  A plague brings death while the gospel brings life. Thus, this new corona virus should cause us to reflect on whether we as Christians today are having that kind of effect in the world.(Tr. TB) (March 3, 2020)        —Akiyama Toru, general secretary

総幹事室より   新型コロナウイルス                             秋山徹 March, 3, 2020

中国の湖北省武漢市(in Wuhan, Hubei Province)から広がった新型コロナ・ウイルス感染症が世界中に広がって、今やパンデミックの様相を呈してきました。日本もクルーズ船ダイヤモンド・プリンセス号の3,000人を超える乗客乗員や北海道での感染者が広がりはじめ、それらのクラスターだけでなく、不特定多数の者から不特定多数の者への感染が疑われるようになっており、感染予防の新しいステージを迎えています。日本政府は、日本の高い罹患率に対する世界中の注目にあせって、ここにきて大慌てで、全国の小・中学校、高等学校に3月終わりまで一斉に休校にするようにと指示をしましたので、それぞれの学校現場ではその対応に追われています。夫婦共働きの家庭、とりわけ小さい子供がいる家庭ではどうしたらいいか、親の休業補償、政治・経済への影響はどうかなど、毎日のニュースをにぎわして、異異常事態の空気が全体に高まっています。何しろ、感染が疑われても検査体制や治療体制が整わないままで、感染者はどんどん広がり、肺炎で死亡する人の数も増えて、混乱や不安だけが増幅されるような状態が続いています。






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