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NSKK NEWSLETTER distributed by
The Nippon Sei Ko Kai
(Anglican Episcopal Church in Japan)
 
Ten Years after the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake
by the Rt. Rev. Andrew Y. Nakamura
 
JAPAN 050604-1
June 4, 2005

Challenges for Christian Churches

[The Nippon Sei Ko Kai - Japan] Ten years have passed since that great earthquake -- it was like a nightmare. We all heartily grateful for the warm supports given to us by a number of kind-hearted people throughout the world during these days.

Let's recall that terrible moment. As there were a number cracks in the ground, which caused the suspension of water, people in Kobe Area were just vacantly watching their houses in raging flames; they were suffering from buzzing of ten's of aeroplanes and helicopters which reached to their ears all day long; and they had to realize innumerable collapsed houses. People who lost their houses poured in public houses such as school buildings, and gymnasia or classrooms immediately turned to their shelters. There were long lines of the victims in the schoolyard to get their daily meals. A few months afterwards, lines of dump-tracks or excavators came to take away rubble heaps from which dust storms were raised around the streets. Whole piles of rubbish were instantly disappeared and then there appeared plane grounds with no buildings.

In this way, City of Kobe has lost a number of residents in Nada Area, business/shopping quarters in the periphery of San-nomiya Station, Kobe Port which is known as a symbol of International City and Minato-Kobe, and downtowns along the sea shore; thus more than 6,400 precious lives were lost by quakes of the earth for only 10 or so seconds.

Over 100 billions of yen were raised for resuscitation of the damages by which buildings and roads have been reconstructed. They look much more gorgeous than those in pre-earthquake days. There are tall residential building where a number of solitary people are living. Each resident has been given a seemingly comfortable private room. I made a visit to a Community Center located in a corner of one of these buildings. To my regret and surprise, there was no sign of people gathering routinely in the Community Center. The Center ought to be built for the purpose of chatting together with those who have similar painful experiences to share their hardships. However, because of their loneliness, their hearts are becoming cold and weathered. It seems that concrete tables and chairs installed for chatting together indicate their state of mind. It was originally thought by the planners and designers that if such a gorgeous building and an artificial space, in which a number of victims could be accommodated, might have offered comfortable life, much better than that of the pre-earthquake days. Those who would move into this gorgeous space might have communicated each other and there should be pleasant and deep communications among those residents with post-earthquake traumas. However, the first intention seems to be a kind of mere illusion.

After the end of the World War II, a number of people came to Kobe in order to obtain spaces for daily life. Numerous temporary shelters stood side by side on the streets. These shelters gradually turned to buildings, and in the downtown area, these were changed to wooden houses. People used to get together around the place, and to talk cheerfully about various topics.

The earthquake deprived of over 6400 lives in a moment. Those survivors who lost their fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, and/or friends should have met new acquaintances with similar post-earthquake traumas and established new relationship with them. It is stated in the Bible that Jesus wept for Mary and Martha who lost their loving brother Lazarus, took compassion on them and returned Lazarus to Mary and Martha. Ten years have already passed, and I strongly feel that all the Christians in the Kobe District should assume our duty to continuously comfort their minds. We will have to accomplish the duty now and for ever, as a challenge imposed on us.

The Rt. Rev. Andrew Y. Nakamura is Bishop of Kobe Diocese