Approaching the second anniversary of the Great East Japan Disaster, the Kyodan’s Disaster Relief Planning Headquarters has held 20 planning conferences on the issue. We are urging that all Kyodan districts, local churches, and subdistricts designate March as “Commemoration Month” and that they pray for all the churches in the affected areas and come together in support of those churches.
The Kyodan took action on March 12, 2011, the day following the disaster, to establish the Disaster Relief Planning Committee, with the general secretary as chairperson, and also took the following actions: 1) Sent a fact-finding delegation headed by the Kyodan moderator; 2) Began a fundraising campaign led by the Committee on Social Concerns; 3) Established a website to circulate information, along with what was included in the Kyodan Shinpo newspaper and later the Planning Headquarters newsletter; 4) Sent an initial financial aid package of 10.5 million yen to each of the three affected districts (Ou, Tohoku, and Kanto); 5) Appointed the executive secretary of the Commission on Ecumenical Ministries to be in charge of the disaster relief program in order to facilitate communication with the affected areas; and as part of this effort, 6) established an office designated for the Disaster Relief Planning Headquarters; and after a short delay, 7) jointly established, with the affected districts, relief activity centers in Sendai, Ishinomaki, and Tono.
As a part of that process, the Executive Committee met in a special session on March 22, 2011, followed by a special session of the Executive Council on April 18, to establish the Kyodan Great East Japan Disaster Relief Planning Headquarters for the purpose of forming a team to organize relief efforts. This team consists of top-ranking Kyodan officials along with five other members of the Executive Council, a member of the Japan Christian Social Work League, and a representative from the Christian schools. Likewise, the district moderators from the three most seriously affected districts, together with the district moderator of Tokyo District (where there was also significant damage), were asked to sit in on all sessions.
The headquarters drafted a slogan to describe their efforts (“Aiming for the rebuilding of churches that can serve their communities for the salvation of the people”), and directed support to worshipping communities and, through these churches, directed relief efforts to all the affected areas. The Scripture verse that was chosen for the theme was “Our help is in the name of the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth” (Psalm 124:8). On March 23, 2011, the Kyodan moderator also made a formal statement entitled, “Facing the greatest crisis in Japan since World War II: Supporting life together with our churches in the Great East Japan Disaster.” The headquarters called on all churches to take time to pray at 2:46 p.m. on the 11th day of every month, in commemoration, and to set the goal of each member contributing 100 yen a week as a lay movement. If each of the 56,260 persons who on average attend weekly services across the nation would contribute 400 yen a month, the total would be 269,952,000 yen a year and exceed one billion yen in four years.
To analyze the needs in the disaster zone, the headquarters sent committee members to the affected areas during the month of June 2011, and based on their analysis proposed a fund-raising goal of one billion yen domestically, with half of that amount designated for the rebuilding of churches and parsonages and the other half designated for humanitarian aid to the surrounding communities. As an international fund-raising goal, they set the amount of 1.2 billion yen, with one billion yen of that amount designated for the rebuilding of Kyodan-related schools and other institutions and the remaining 200 million yen designated for aid to churches for their rebuilding efforts.
The result was that many overseas churches related to the Kyodan immediately responded to this need by sending support. Here in Japan, a great many individuals volunteered to serve, either on their own initiative or through the auspices of churches, schools, and other organizations, so there was a continuous stream of volunteers in the affected districts.
The situation at the site of the disaster, however, was one of constant flux between the initial confusion and the trial-and-error relief attempts as well as among the mix of people’s unanticipated actions, expectations, and despair. In order to deal with this, the headquarters assigned a person under the executive secretary to deal with the organization of volunteers. Likewise, at the two Emmaus Centers in Sendai and Ishinomaki, an additional assistant was sent to help coordinate relief efforts, beginning first with mud removal. At Tono Center, volunteers were organized to receive the survivors and serve them, thus fulfilling the purpose for which these centers were established.
Regular strategy sessions were held at the headquarters to sort through the initial confusion and to draw up a strategic plan for each day, prioritizing the needs that could be addressed. Through our fund-raising campaign, both domestically and overseas, our aim was “to be engaged in the relief operation as a unified Kyodan,” and so we had each of the affected districts calculate the monetary needs of each of the damaged and destroyed churches. The headquarters then distributed relief funds and loans according to a unified system of local church, district, and national (Kyodan) levels.
By the first anniversary of the disaster, in March 2012, the “Criteria for Distributing Relief Funds to the Disaster-Affected Churches” and the “System of Loans” were established, with funds that were raised domestically being applied to these. The direct aid for repairs and reconstruction of damaged churches and parsonages was set at 50 percent, with the remaining 50 percent distributed as a 20-year, no-interest loan.
The funds raised internationally are being used for humanitarian aid to support the volunteer work being done through the three centers (Emmaus Sendai, Emmaus Ishinomaki and Heartful Tono), along with several other related programs, including 1) special Christmas programs and concerts for the survivors, 2) the “Kohitsuji (lamb) Camp” for children in high-radiation zones, 3) repairs at Asian Rural Institute and two other church-related facilities in Fukushima, 4) health exams for pastors and their families in the disaster areas, 5) participation in the establishment of an endowed chair at Tohoku University for the training of religious counselors, and 6) the procurement of radiation detectors for food.
With respect to the issue of providing respite and recreation for the children in high-radiation areas, our desire is not only for this to be a Kyodan-level program but also to encourage districts and local churches to be proactive in focusing on the needs of the children. The Kyodan’s polices regarding large-scale disaster response was clarified by the headquarters in August 2011 at the emergency symposium “Challenges Posed by the Great East Japan Earthquake Disaster — The Crisis of Present-day Japan and Christianity.” This was followed in March 2012 by the “Moderator’s Pronouncement on the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant Accident.” Lastly, as we now approach the second anniversary of the disaster, we look back at our initial response and early relief programs and we also look ahead to the medium and long-range relief programs we resolutely commit ourselves to actualize. (Tr. TB)
—Nagasaki Tetsuo, general secretary
東日本大震災から二年が過ぎようとしている。 教団 「救援対策本部」は会議も通算20回 を積み重ね、この3.11に際して、全教区・支区・地区・
顧みて、あの翌日3月12日 には、教団は総幹事を委員長として「救援対策委員会」を 立ち上げ、１.教団議長を隊長とし、被災地の状況把握のため 調査 隊派遣。２.社会委員会は国内募金開始。３.ＨＰ・教団新報・
ここで本部は、救援の主題を「地域の人々の 救い に仕える教会の再建を目指して」、１.礼拝共同体の支援、２.教
その結果、教団関係の海外教会からの敏感な 援護 と見舞いが頻繁に起こり、国内教会・学校・団体・
しかし、現地は語り尽くせない初動の混乱・ 試行 錯誤・思いがけない人々の動き、期待、
本部は対策室長会議を設定し、被災初動の混 乱の 整理と日常的に具体的な課題や要望等取り上げるべき案件の整理と
内外からの募金運動を通して、「全教団一致 して 救援に当たる」ことを願い、「被災教会」支援は、「教区」
一方、海外募金は「人道支援」に当て、エマ オ仙 台・エマオ石巻、ハ－
尚、今後は、放射能汚染地域の子どものため の保 養プログラムを教団レベルだけでなく、
大震災三年目を前に、初動及び短期救援事業 を顧 みた。今、