Japanese Orthodox Church assesses survivors’ needs, searches for missing priest

International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) has been in contact with the Autonomous Orthodox Church in Japan and its ACT Alliance partners to assess the emerging needs following the massive earthquake and tsunami which devastated northeastern Japan on March 11, 2011. IOCC is also reaching out to the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s Metropolis of Korea. As the Orthodox Church in Japan works to assess the needs of survivors, it reports that one priest in Tohoku, Japan is missing.

“Most of the church buildings in Tohoku parish along the Pacific coast are severely damaged and one priest is missing,” reports Father Demitrios Tanaka of the Orthodox Church in Japan. “However, we confirmed that the clergy of Sendai Orthodox Church, including Bishop Seraphim, are safe.”

Given that most of the communications infrastructure was damaged, the Japanese Church is still assessing the safety and exact needs of parishioners in the affected areas.

The Holy Resurrection Cathedral of Tokyo and the building of the Metropolitan Council were spared damage, according to Father Demitrios.

“The outpouring of support from Orthodox Christians who have expressed their desire to help through IOCC has been moving,” said IOCC Executive Director Constantine Triantafilou. “This is a complex disaster - two almost simultaneous catastrophic events - and the scope of the need is just beginning to emerge. IOCC will continue to work with its Orthodox Christian and ecumenical partners to determine the most effective aid that can be rendered to Japan in the days and weeks to come.”

The human toll and damage to homes and infrastructure following the 8.9-magnitude earthquake are only beginning to be calculated. More than 10,000 people are now feared dead after the earthquake-triggered tsunami washed away several coastal cities, including Sendai, the Episcopal See of the East Japan Diocese of the Autonomous Orthodox Church in Japan.

The overwhelming scale of the twin disasters has prompted the Japanese government to request international assistance. IOCC will coordinate its response with local Orthodox and ecumenical partners in Japan to identify unmet needs that will complement the assistance being rendered by the Japanese and other governments.

IOCC has received numerous calls from individuals and groups offering to assemble health and baby kits. “The kits have been in great demand recently and are always welcome,” said Jamie Helfer, IOCC emergency response coordinator. “Kits that are received to the warehouse facility in western Maryland will be staged for shipment as they are requested by partners in response to disasters around the world and may also be shipped to Japan, if they are requested by our partners there.”

Directions on how to assemble the kits, which are to be sent to a central warehouse in western Maryland, may be found on IOCC’s website at www.iocc.org/kits.

Donations to IOCC may be made on-line at www.iocc.org, by calling toll free at 877-803-4622, or sending a check or money order payable to IOCC to PO Box 630225, Baltimore, MD 21263-0225.