FH partner Friends with the Voiceless International (FVI) is currently responding to the needs of Fukushima residents affected by the earthquake and tsunami. Despite the threat of radiation from the nearby nuclear reactor, local pastors and congregations have refused to abandon residents in the area and continue to reach out with food, supplies, and comfort.
Miyuki Numata, FH Canada’s Director of International Programs, returned from Japan a few weeks ago where she connected with FVI in Fukushima. She noted how the local church is reaching out to people overlooked in larger relief efforts. Prior to the disaster churches did not have a very visible presence in the local community due to the small number of Christians, but now people recognize that churches are providing essential supplies and are often shocked that the help is free. Many recipients are unable or unwilling to evacuate because they are elderly, handicapped, or bedridden, or they have farms with animals they do not want to abandon.
Soohwan Park, on staff with Regent College Marketplace Institute and a former FH Director of Global HR, recently met with FVI staff and local church leaders in Japan and gave the following updates:
Tsunami recovery work is unique comparing to other natural disaster relief work like flood or earthquake because everything is washed away by powerful waves in a matter of minutes. When tsunami hit in South Asia in 2004, the cleanup and recovery work began rapidly in villages and coastal towns in Thailand but the spiritual and mental recovery was a slow and silent battle. Local fishing villages gradually picked themselves up again because fishermen knew what it meant to take risks as they had been living all their lives depending on water and boats, if they were able to overcome the fear of water again.
What Fukushima is experiencing now is totally different because of the radiation from the broken nuclear plants after the massive tsunami. Among those survived, many people (including farmers) have evacuated temporarily and they are now considering whether or not to leave their home towns for good. Those staying in their local communities suddenly found themselves too busy caring for victims and evacuees to face the unknown future ahead of them. Land recovery from contamination by radiation, evacuation and resettlement of people. That’s what caught my attention from when the early stage of radiation alert started coming out. I started praying with Jeremiah 29 for rebuilding local communities in and around Fukushima as I prepared for my trip out from Vancouver…
…Our focus of action plan immediately became the recovery of local economy and how to protect local farmers and other small businesses as Fukushima’s economy is said to be frozen already and it will only go down due to the radiation and prolonged solutions about the nuclear plants. As we were talking with the pastor and his wife, it became obvious to all of us that expanding relief action (distribution of handouts) would only keep the local economy inactive and keep the evacuees passive. We realized that we should find ways to turn that trajectory as quickly as possible and start building actions toward building a long term future.