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

“Interfaith Chaplain” Training Course Begun in Touhoku


by Kawakami Naoya, senior pastor

Sendai Shimin Church, Tohoku District


Touhoku HELP* has established the Endowed Course for Practical Religious Studies at Tohoku National University with donations from the Kyodan and others to train persons of various religious backgrounds to serve as chaplains for survivors of the Great East Japan Disaster. The role of “chaplain,” as practiced in the West, does not exist in Japan. As the lack of trained people to address spiritual needs became a major issue after this disaster, Touhoku HELP set up the endowed course in cooperation with representatives of other religions in the Tohoku region to solve this problem. The details and the aims of the course are described below.


1.The Beginning


The Great East Japan Disaster took the lives of well over 10,000 people in an instant; the tsunami damaged over 500 kilometers of land along the coastline; then the nuclear accident followed. It was truly an unprecedented situation.


One positive outcome of this terrible tragedy is that representatives of many religions overcame their differences to cooperate effectively together. One reason for this was reflection on what happened during the 1995 Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake in the Kobe area, where, the various religious groups worked hard to gather volunteers. However, they hid their religious affiliations because of concurrent incidents (such as the sarin gas attack on Tokyo subways), which were perpetrated by Aum Shinrikyo, a bogus religious organization. In response to this, Yamaori Tetsuo, a scholar in religious studies, made the following critical response: “If that is the situation, what value is there in religious organizations being involved in volunteer work?”


In response to this criticism, religious leaders cooperated together during the 2011 disaster response. They interviewed suffering people to find out how they could help and gave telephone counseling and radio broadcasts. Doctors and university professors joined in this cooperation to establish the “heart counseling room” in April 2012. The following website gives one account: http://tohokuhelp.com/panel/120605a.html. This type of cooperative action among religious leaders had begun on an intermittent basis during natural disasters in the past, but it had always been quite limited and the idea of the role termed “chaplain” had not taken root in Japan.


This time, we must work hard to continue the new endeavor that was born out of a great loss of life, building upon the foundation of our past experiences to further develop this spirit of cooperation through personal training and organizational development. Failure to do this will reduce the ability of religious organizations, such as churches, to support effectively the activities that will need to be continued in the stricken areas for several more decades.


As a result of this widely shared awareness of the issues involved, the Kyodan has financially assisted Touhoku HELP with the establishment of the “Endowed Course for Practical Religious Studies” at Tohoku University in April 2012.


2.The Goal


This new endowed course, which resulted from the desire to enable continued development of the interfaith cooperation that grew out of this natural disaster, has a three-year plan and is now just finishing its first year of existence. The aim of this program is to develop a “Japanese-style interfaith chaplain,” and the training that began last fall has been widely heralded in the press. The second training session will be held this spring, with some improvements, based on the first session. Further analysis of what works best will be added to the mix so that in working together with the medical and other related fields, this program will serve as a foundation for disaster relief in the future.


The first year of this endowed program of study is but the first step in a long journey. We ask for your continued support of the program. (Tr. SM)


*A Sendai Christian Alliance Disaster Relief Network—an ecumenical endeavor in which the Kyodan participates



「日本版チャプレン」 設立 を目 指す

「東北大学 実践宗教学寄附講座」について


日本基督教団 仙台市民教会 主任担任教師

東北大学実践宗教学寄附講座 運営委員会 委員長



東北ヘルプは、東日本大震災への対応として、東北大学に教団とその他の団体からの寄付で「実践宗 教学 寄附 講 座」を開設した。日本には欧米に見られるような「チャプレン」の役割は存在していない。今次の震災において、この問題は大きな課題となっ た。東北ヘルプはこの問題の解決のために、東北地方の諸宗教者と協働して、寄附講座を開設した。以下、その経緯と目標を簡潔 に記 す。



東日本大震災は、一瞬のうちに万を数える人々の命を奪った。海岸線だけでも500キロに及ぶ地域が津波の被害を受け、更に原子力発電所の爆発事故が重なった。まさに未曾有の事態 であ る。

この大惨事に、一つの出来事が起こった。宗教者が宗教の別を越えて協働したのである。この協働 の背 後に は、 歴史の反省があった。阪神大震災の時、宗教者は率先してボランティアに勤しんだ。その時「宗教

は隠された。オウム事件があったことは、その背景として留意されるべきである。しかし、宗教学者 の山 折哲 雄氏 は厳しく批判して言った。「それであれば、宗教者の奉仕活動の意義は、どこにあるか。」

この問いに応え、今次の震災において諸宗教者は協働して働いた。被災者を見舞 い、 電話 相談 を受け、ラジオ放送を行った。その活動の一端はhttp://tohokuhelp.com/panel/120605a.htmlに報告されている。


こうして、宗教者の協働が、被災現場で始まった。こうした活動は、過去断にも続的にあったが、 常に 限定 的な 活動にとどまり、遂に現在に至るまで、日本に「チャプレン」は誕生しなかった。

今回、大きな犠牲の上に生まれた新しい取り組みを活かし、過去において積み上 げら れた 蓄積 と接続し、新しく生まれた協働のための「人づくり」「仕組み作り」をしなければならない。そうしなければ、これから数十年続く被災地での 活動を、教会等の宗教施設が支えることはできない。




被災地で発見された宗教者の協働を持続可能なものとするべく始まった寄附講座は、三年の計画を 立 て、 今、第 一年度を終えようとしている。この講座は「日本版チャプレン」を立ち上げるということを目指し、昨秋に研修を行い(この研修は多く好意的 に報道された)、その成果を踏まえて今春に再度の研修を行う。その内容は分析され、過去の蓄積へと連結される。今後は医療等 の他 領域 と連 携し、長く続く支援の基盤を整備することを目指す。

遥か に目 指す 道程 の第一歩として第一年度が終了しようとしている寄附講座に、引き続き広いご理解とご支援を賜れば幸いである。

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