On the Occasion of the Second Anniversary of the Great Earthquake on March 11


On the Occasion of the Second Anniversary of the Great Earthquake on March 11 Nearly two years have passed sin […]

On the Occasion of the Second Anniversary of the Great Earthquake on March 11

Nearly two years have passed since the Great East Japan Earthquake. Even now, however, it can hardly be said that peace and hope have been restored to people in the afflicted areas, or that reconstruction is in sight. Therefore, as president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan, I would like to inform all of you in the Catholic Church in Japan about the current situation as exactly as possible so that we might think together about what we can do.
For afflicted persons, the primary cause for their suffering, agony, distress, and anxiety is, simply put, that there is as yet no prospect of reconstruction. A huge obstacle is that the solutions to the crucial issues such as securing safe housing, eliminating radioactive contamination, redeveloping industries and generating employment are hardly foreseeable.
With regard to housing, people first lived in shelters, and now in temporary housing. Although they are expected to move to public reconstruction housing in the future, nobody seems to know when it will happen. Therefore, there is a tendency that those who have enough economic potential, physical strength and vitality leave the temporary housing and “vulnerable” ones are left behind. It is also feared that those remaining suffer new emotional distress so that the number of those who wish to commit suicide increases due to anxiety about the future.
In Fukushima Prefecture where people are suffering from radioactive contamination, it is said that they will not be able to return to their homes with ease for at least five more years. In reality, however, it seems likely to be postponed to a later date. The number of those who have evacuated from Fukushima is expected to reach 160,000. How can they go back to their hometowns if the contamination will not be eliminated? Moreover, as long as nuclear plants exist there remains a risk that their beloved hometowns will be contaminated again by radiation, since technology developed by humanity is not perfect.
With regard to job opportunities or employment, the number of young people who leave Fukushima is increasing because there are not enough secure jobs to sustain their future. One reason behind this is difficulties in redeveloping primary industries located mostly in the coastal regions. Why is it so difficult? How can we redevelop them? These are the issues we have to tackle in the future.
The Catholic Church is making every effort to accompany people sincerely and to build close relationships among people in the regions.
I would like to express my sincere appreciation and respect to those who have been working in various ways until now, for example, the Sisters’ Relay conducted even now in the forms of aid activities in the afflicted areas and prayers in convents nationwide, the volunteers’ bases as the signs of all the Japanese ecclesiastical provinces’ concern for those areas, and staff members and volunteers sent through the nationwide network of the Church. I hope the efforts within the Church contribute to enhancing communication in the regions and become helpful in accompanying people living there.
Volunteers’ bases serve as the centers* for the Church to closely support the afflicted areas. As was the case during the shift from shelters to temporary housing, there is concern that when people move from temporary housing to public restoration housing, those who have been acquainted and become friends with each other will be separated again. The support to promote friendship among people in the region will be all the more necessary because it is truly important in reconstruction to alleviate new pain caused by the interruption of friendship. I sincerely wish that the Church’s volunteer bases continue to be used for such support.
Without accompanying others, we cannot find out their wound or pain. Without listening to them, we cannot hear their voices. Without taking a humble and sincere stance, we can neither accompany them in a true sense nor contribute to building communities. Accompanying each one of the afflicted ones is one of our aid activities. Meanwhile, we learn a lot from them in return.
Let us continue to provide both material and spiritual aid, and pray with people in Japan and the rest of the world who feel sympathy for the afflicted persons. Prayers have a power. Prayers are the sign of never forgetting.

Merciful God
You are always close to us, and share our joy and sorrows.
Give your help and encouragement to those who are suffering from the aftereffects of the latest great earthquake.
We will make sacrifices and keep on praying for them, too.
May all the afflicted ones be able to live with ease as soon as possible.
May all who died in this disaster rest peacefully with You.
Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
May our Mother, pray for us. Amen.

February 22, 2013

President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan
Leo Jun IKENAGA, S.J., Archbishop of Osaka