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NSKK NEWSLETTER distributed by
The Nippon Sei Ko Kai
(Anglican Episcopal Church in Japan)
 
Helping Hands for Those Suffering from Tsunami disaster in Indian Ocean
by the Rev. Laurence Yutaka Minabe
 
JAPAN 050604-2
June 4, 2005

Thoughts after attending emergency meeting of CCA to address rescue and rehabilitation concerns

[The Nippon Sei Ko Kai - Japan] I attended the emergency meeting of CCA which was held in Colombo, Sri Lanka between January 26 and 30. People from the 7 countries affected by the Tsunami and 6 CCA member countries who are willing to offer help gathered to exchange information and discuss rescue and rehabilitation programs. The stricken area is vast and each area has its own particular concerns. Also other issues not related to the disaster were brought up and discussed.

In the western and southern areas of Sri Lanka the level of damage was very severe. The tsunami had hit from between several hundred meters to several kilometers from the shore line depending upon its geographical features. The first thing that the people had to do was to bury the dead. Then they had to clear and sterilize the area. Clearing is simply to get rid of all rubble and trash. I was amazed to find a fishing boat so far from the shore line.

Those who live in the villages along the shore line are mainly fishermen except for those who are involved in tourism. They are afraid that the government may not allow them to rebuild their villages within 100 to 200 meters from the shore line. They may be allowed to rebuild in an area far from the shore but this means that they will not be able to continue their conventional fishing because they can not feel or smell the sea from where they are settled. They are also facing the immediate problem of not being able to sell their catch, even if they could start fishing immediately, because the sea is contaminated.

Casteism is another issue for fishermen. They are not a part of casteism. So they can not give up fishing and take up different jobs by because people in other jobs will not allow new comers from a different job category. How to return to fishing is a big challenge for these fishermen whose only livelihood can be in fishing.

Another issue in Sri Lanka is conflict between races; namely the conflict between the Sinhala majority and the Tamil minority. They are very different in language and belief. Right now they are observing a truce, but land mines have been placed all over the area. Also during this crisis there is a feeling of inequality in the distribution of relief aid supplies. The Bishop of Colombo emphasized that attention has to be paid so that we do not stir up unnecessary racial conflict by creating a feeling of having been treated unfairly.

I talked with a representative from the Church of North India about the situation in The Diocese of Andaman & Car Nicobar Islands but he was not sure about it because communication to the area was almost non-existent. It is very isolated from India and I believe that language and belief is different from that of India. Comments by a representative of Bangladesh sounded very cynical and sad because he said that every year they experience damage from typhoons and flooding, but that this year they only experienced the effects of the tsunami.

It was reported that over 320,000 people died from natural disasters in the year 2004 and only 30,000 were due to the earthquake in Sumatra Island and the tsunami in the Indian Ocean. In order to rehabilitate people from disasters we, Christians in the Asian Region will pray together and offer a long term rehabilitation program.

The Rev. Laurence Yutaka Minabe is General Secretary of NSKK