Japanese Orthodox hierarchs to develop ongoing recovery efforts

Nearly a month after the fourth largest earthquake ever recorded struck the eastern coast of Japan and touched off a devastating tsunami, earthquakes continue to rattle the nerves of survivors and complicate relief efforts. More than thirty earthquakes measuring 6.0 and above on the Richter scale have been experienced in eastern Japan as efforts to assist survivors and rebuild continue.

Over the past three weeks the staff of the Sendai Diocese of the Orthodox Church in Japan have been working to assess the needs of survivors, account for the Orthodox faithful and survey the condition of Church properties along the coastal areas impacted by the disasters.

Six Orthodox faithful were lost in the disasters, four are still missing and one church was totally destroyed by the tsunami and fire, reported Fr. Clement Kodama, Secretary to Bishop Seraphim of the Sendai Diocese.

The Orthodox Church of Japan will convene a meeting of its bishops in Tokyo on April 12, 2011 to hear reports on the current needs in the disaster area and plan for the continued response and reconstruction efforts.

International Orthodox Christian Charities [IOCC] has extended offers of assistance to the Orthodox Church in Japan to provide essential aid, as needed, and will support efforts to provide assistance as the disaster response moves into the recovery phase.

While immediate relief supplies have been provided to shelters serving survivors of the disasters, access to the disaster-affected areas is restricted and travel and communication remains difficult due to the road conditions, rationing of gasoline, rolling blackouts and intermittent telephone service.

Thousands of people displaced by the earthquake, tsunami and radiation have been sheltered by relatives outside of the disaster zone as authorities in the prefectures begin construction of over 10,000 temporary homes.

“The earthquake and tsunami were something unreal, but people’s spirits are still high and they encourage each other,” reported Priest Mark Koike of Tohoku. “As sad as each story is, there are miracles we encounter.”

Father Mark related the story of one parishioner who was desperately looking for her aged mother near their house that had been destroyed by the tsunami. She located the site of the house and found the family cross standing upright in the rubble.

“She said she found the bright light in the darkness,” said Father Mark.

IOCC is the official humanitarian aid agency established in the early 1990s by the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas. It is a member of the ACT Alliance, a global coalition of churches and agencies engaged in development, humanitarian assistance and advocacy.

Donations may be made on-line on IOCC’s web site at www.iocc.org, by calling 1-877-803-4622 toll free, or by sending a check or money order payable to IOCC to PO Box 630225, Baltimore, MD 21263-0225.