Kyodan’s Commission on Ministry Visits Fukushima

The Commission on Ministry visited churches, church-related kindergartens, and other facilities in Fukushima, Aug. 19-21, and Sept. 2-4, when we were able to visit 25 churches, and meet with 18 pastors. However, we visited seven churches where we were unable to meet with the pastor. In addition, we visited seven kindergartens, daycare centers, and other church-related facilities as well as one facility not directly related to a church.

 

The overwhelming issue for the churches in Fukushima is nuclear contamination. The issue hangs like a heavy cloud over the lives of clergy, church members, teachers, children at the related daycare centers and kindergartens, as well as all parents and guardians. Not everyone is in agreement as to what the actual situation is, so differences in opinion have created walls of separation between people. One of the biggest problems is that “recovery” and

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“safety” have come to represent two contradictory views that are in constant tension with each other. If the focus in on recovery, this could lead to an underestimation of the risks of radiation. If the prime minister’s unfounded “Safety Declaration” is advertised near and far, this could result in the exposure of a multitude of people to dangerous levels of radiation. On the other hand, if safety becomes the primary concern, then evacuation from Fukushima will be the most important step to insure people’s safety. This would lead to a mass exodus from Fukushima, and all forms of commerce and social activity would come to a halt. What makes this present situation so difficult is that it is not easy to discern whose opinion is right and whose is not. The ongoing tensions reveal how serious this issue is.

 

For the municipalities to “recover,” it is necessary to stop the population from moving out of the area. To keep people from leaving, it needs to be emphasized that it is safe to live in Fukushima. This would be the position of people who work for Fukushima Prefecture as well as of local cities, towns, and villages in Fukushima. It was reported that one daycare center received a phone call from a man at the local municipality saying, “Our town water is safe so please have the children drink from the tap.” The pastor who shared this information with us said that he himself drinks the water from the tap, but in order to provide a safe environment to alleviate the concern of parents/guardians, he buys bottled water from outside Fukushima. This was the answer that he gave the man who called from the local town hall. Later, the daycare center was criticized for “not cooperating with the town recovery effort.”

 

At present, there are two Kyodan churches that are inactive due to the nuclear disaster. On this visit, we were able to go to both. For Odaka Church, there was no need for paper work, but for Namie Church we had to do the proper paper work at Namie City Hall before being allowed to travel into the area to stand before the church. As we rode in the car, the surreal landscape was hard for us to view without being overwhelmed by sadness. Before our eyes we could see the town, and yet there were no people. Farmland was overgrown with weeds. Only the traffic lights were in operation, along with a few police cars making their rounds. Suddenly one day, because of the nuclear disaster, the town had been emptied, the church could no longer hold worship services, and the church-related kindergarten had to close. I was speechless as I stood in front of the churches and kindergartens that had been created and maintained, thanks to the prayers and service of so many people throughout the years.

 

I can understand the feelings of those who emphasize the importance of recovery. They can see in a very real way what will happen if their village or town begins to degenerate and die. And yet, no one can say that it is right to hide the damage that results from exposure to high radiation. This dilemma weighs like a heavy burden on the lives of the people. It tears them and their communities apart, and the suffering continues to grow deeper and heavier. This is the reality of Fukushima today.

 

Through this visit, we were all made aware of the richness of the Kyodan. Even in the midst of these difficult realities, there are people who are committed to walking alongside the suffering people, carrying on the ministries of the churches and related facilities to bring salvation through the gospel.

 

In the Kyodan, there are many committed people with a variety of gifts who continue their ministries in Fukushima by walking in the footsteps of Jesus. The Great East Japan Disaster has tested all of us in ways we have never been tested before. But the Kyodan churches and facilities are strong as they carry on the good work of Christ in their respective locations. By witnessing their ministries and listening to their voices, I was able to confirm the enriching presence of the Holy Spirit as it is poured out in each place.

 

More than anything, I believe we are being called to pray. We need to pray for each and every person in Fukushima and that the enriching work of the Holy Spirit will be felt over the land. Moved along by those prayers, I pray that each of us can give with thankful hearts for the work that needs to be done. I heard from our brothers and sisters that the Kyodan Relief Funds have been put to good use. I heard many words of appreciation for the financial support that the Kyodan has been able to provide. Through our incessant prayers and financial gifts we are enabled to participate in the work of God there in the disaster-stricken areas. I want to emphasize that our prayers and financial gifts are both signs of solidarity that we can offer in the face of difficulties as well as service that we can offer to our Lord. (Tr. JM)

—Yoshizawa Hisashi, secretary Commission on Ministry From Shinpo (The Kyodan Times), No. 4783

 

 

教師委員会福島問安報告

8/19-21及び9/2-4の日程で、福 島県の諸教会、幼稚園、施設等を問安した。2度の問安で、18名の教師と25の 教会に問安した。教師には会えなかったが教会の様子を見に行った教会が7教会あった。幼稚園保育園等の付属施設を7つ、その他施設を 1つ、8つの付属施設を問安した。

福島の教会で大きな課題は、放射能汚染に関 することである。教師や教会員、付属施設の教師や子ども達、保護者に大きな問題としてのしかかっている。すべての人が同じ意見ではな く、意見の違いによって諍いが生じ、人と人との間が分断されることもある。一番の問題は、「復興」と「安全」が矛盾する形でぶつかり 合うことである。「復興」を優先させれば、放射線のリスクを過小評価することになり、根拠のない「安全宣言」が広告され、多くの人を 被爆させることになる。「安全」を強調すると、福島から避難することが何よりも重要な安全確保になり、人口流出に拍車をかけ、あらゆる集まりが衰退していくことになる。そして、どちらの言い分が間違っており、どちらの言い分が正しいとは簡単には言えないところに、 問題の深さと大きさがある。

町の復興に欠かせないのは、何よりも人口流 出を防ぐことにある。そのためには、福島に暮らしても安全であることが強調される。福島県や市町村、そして町の復興を願う地元の人たちはこの立場にある。市の担当者から保育園に「市の水道水は安全だから、子ども達に使用するように」との通達があったことも聞かされ た。この教師は個人としては水道水を利用しているが、不安を感じている保護者達に少しでも安心して頂くために、県外のペットボトルを 使用していると返答した。しかしその対応が「町の復興の妨げ」として非難されるのである。

現在教団の教会で、原発事故によって2つの 教会が活動を停止している。今回の問安で小高伝道所と浪江伝道所に訪れることが出来た。小高伝道所は手続きなしに行くことが出来た が、浪江伝道所は役所にて手続きをした上で教会の前まで行った。車を走らせながら、その光景の異様さに胸が痛くなった。町そのものは そこにあるのに、人がいない。農地は雑草でぼこぼこになっている。信号のみが動き、パトカーが巡回している。原発事故によってある日 突然、町が停止して、教会も礼拝が出来なくなり、附属幼稚園も保育が停止したのである。多くの祈りと、奉仕によって設立され、主の御 業を担っていた二つの教会と附属幼稚園の現実を前にして、言葉を失うしかなかった。

復興を強調する人たちの気持ちも理解でき る。彼らは自分の町が衰退していくことによってどうなるかということを、目に見える形で見る事が出来るのである。だからといって、放 射線汚染の被害を覆い隠すことが正しいとは言えない。このジレンマが大きな重荷として、人の間を引き裂き、その苦しみは軽くなるので はなく日々重くなっているのが福島の現実である。

今回の問安で示されたことは、教団の豊かさである。以上のような困難を前にしても、教会や保育施設、諸施設はその歩みを前進させ、苦しめる人々に寄り添い、福音によって救いをもたらそうと懸命に歩んでいる。日本基督教団には多くの賜物を持った献身者達が、福島の地でイエス様のみ跡をたどる歩みをしている。 東日本大震災による未曾有の試練の中で、教団の教会や諸施設は、力強く主の御業をそれぞれの地で行っている。その姿を見、その声を聴 くことで、各地に注がれている聖霊の働きを豊かに感じることが出来た。

私たちに求められていることは、何よりも祈ることである。福島の地で奮闘している一人一人を憶えて祈り、聖霊の働きが更に豊かにされることを祈るのである。その祈りに押し出されて、私たちは献げものを感謝して献げていきたい。教団の救援献金は確実に執行され、支援に対する感謝の声を多く聴かされた。熱い祈りと献金によって、私たちは被災地の主の御業につながることができるのである。祈りと献金による連帯こそが、この困難の前に示され た、私たちの奉仕の業であること強調し、問安報告としたい。吉澤ひさし(教師委員会書記)(教団新報第4783号)