April 2011

Enormity of Japan disaster continues to unfold

One month after a massive magnitude nine earthquake and ten-metre high tsunami ravaged north-eastern Japan, the enormity of the tragedy continues to unfold.

Reports suggest over 12,000 people have died, around 15,000 remain missing and 173,000 are displaced and living in evacuation centres. While the destruction of homes, public infrastructure and livelihoods is immense, the sinister threat of a nuclear crisis weighs heavily on the people.

In an interview with The Good Oil, Good Samaritan Sister Haruko Morikawa described the current mood of people in Japan as a mixture of sorrow, panic, fear, stress and powerlessness.

“It will take time for us to digest or reflect or to find the meaning from this reality,” she said.

Haruko lives in Nara, near Kyoto, about 600 kilometres south-west of the disaster zone. While physically removed from this area, she and the other Good Samaritan sisters in her community feel a strong spiritual connection with people in north-eastern Japan and are very conscious of their suffering, hardship and loss.

“As the sky, land and sea are in common or connected, people’s hearts are so near to us and rather part of us,” Haruko said.

“I can imagine how they are feeling: they’ve lost family; they’re searching for friends, relatives or neighbours.

“In that area it’s very, very cold. People have no fuel, electricity, gasoline or food. People have lost everything. People are packed in relocation centres and sometimes cannot move freely. Some elderly people were saved from the tsunami but have died in the relocation centre.”

Some of the sisters in Haruko’s community have family or friends in the north-east. A week after the earthquake, Haruko received news that her cousins were safe in one of the many evacuation centres. They were among the fortunate who could return to their home.

Haruko knows what it is like to experience an earthquake. Sixteen years ago she was living in Kansai when the magnitude 7.2 Kobe earthquake struck. It wasn’t as strong as last month’s quake and didn’t cause a tsunami, but over 6,000 people died and there were fires, aftershocks and significant destruction.

Haruko believes Japanese people are more aware of the dangers of nuclear power since the recent earthquake damaged the Fukushima nuclear plant and unleashed the threat of a nuclear crisis.

While critical of her government’s decision to use nuclear power with very little consultation about the potential dangers, Haruko said people in Japan also needed to take responsibility for the disaster because of their ignorance and a consumerist mentality.

“I think it’s our fault first because we want to improve our economy and we wanted to be richer and richer. So we are not able to know that kind of danger of nuclear plant, instead we pursued only the development,” she explained.

“We experienced the fear of nuclear bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but in spite of that, we rely on the nuclear power as if the electricity from the nuclear power comes without any cost to us.”

Haruko is appreciative of the many supportive and prayerful emails she has received from sisters and friends in Australia since the March 11 disaster and has passed these messages on to other Japanese people who have felt strengthened and encouraged to keep going.

“That kind of international support is very strong for the people in suffering area,” said Haruko.

“Our sympathy and encouragement can reach the people so quickly and sometimes they need those kinds of support more than some material support.”

The Good Samaritan Sisters have had a long and close connection with the people of Japan. In 1948 they responded to an appeal from the Bishop of Nagasaki, Paul Yamaguchi, for an Australian order of sisters to help in the reconstruction of his diocese which had been devastated by the 1945 atomic bomb.

Today eight Japanese sisters continue to minister in Nara and one is in the Philippines.

“As a congregation, we are united in solidarity with our sisters in Japan, their families and all the people of Japan as they come to understand the grief and enormity of this tragedy that has struck them,” said Clare Condon, Leader of the Good Samaritan Sisters.

Recalling the observations of the first five sisters who arrived in Nagasaki shortly after the end of World War II, Clare said they were moved by the people’s strong will to rebuild and to improve on their lives despite the desolation that surrounded them.

“As a congregation we will pray that this strong will continues for the people of north-eastern Japan as they begin to rebuild their lives.”




マグニチュード9という巨大な大地震と10メートルの津波が日本の東北部を壊滅させて1ヶ月経過した今、この大惨事は、なお拡大し続けている。The Good Oilは最近、善きサマリア人修道会の森川晴子シスターに状況を尋ねた。

死者は12,000人以上、約15,000人が行方不明、173,000 人が避難所での生活を強いられていると報告されている。家屋、公共インフラ、生活は崩壊、原子力の脅威は人々に重くのしかかっている。

The Good Oilのインタビューで、善きサマリア人修道会の森川晴子シスターは、日本の現在の雰囲気は悲痛、パニック、恐怖、ストレス、無力さが入り混じったようだと表現した。




「彼らがどのように感じているか想像できます: 家族を亡くし; 友達、親戚、近所の人たちを探しているのです。」


「晴子さんの共同体に住むシスターの中には、家族や友人が東北に住んでいる人がいます。」 地震発生1週間後に、晴子さんは彼女のいとこは無事で避難所のどこかにいるという知らせを受けました。その人たちは自宅に帰ることができる恵まれた人たちの一人なのです。














The Good Oil

‘The Good Oil’, the free, monthly e-journal of the Good Samaritan Sisters, publishes news, feature and opinion articles and reflective content which aims to nourish the spirit, stimulate thinking and encourage reflection and dialogue about contemporary issues from a Good Samaritan perspective.

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