Anglicans rally to support Japan after massive earthquake, tsunami

The streets of Kesennuma, a city located in the northeast of Miyagi Prefecture, Japan, are flooded after a tsunami and earthquake March 11. Photo: Yomiuri/Reuters

Anglicans around the world have offered their prayers and support to the people of Japan, after an 8.9 magnitude earthquake hit the country’s northeast coast Friday, March 11, triggering a tsunami that has caused deaths and extensive damage.

The CBC reported that about 200 to 300 bodies were found in the northeastern coastal city of Sendai and officials have warned that the death toll could be higher.

“The news of the horrific earthquake in Japan has shocked us all,” said a statement by the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams. “…Our hearts and our prayers go out to all who have been affected and that we as a church will do what we can to offer practical as well as spiritual support at this time of great suffering and great anxiety for so many.”

Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, sent a letter to the primate of the Nippon Sei Ko Kai (Anglican Communion in Japan).

“We assure you of our sympathy and of our prayers for all who have died and those who mourn their loss, for all who are injured and those who tend them, for all who frantically wait word of their loved ones,” said the primate. “We hold before God all those who are engaged in the relief efforts as well as you and all who are ministering to the needs of a stricken, grieving nation.”
The Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF), the relief and development arm of the Canadian Anglican church, said any donations it receives designated for earthquake relief in Japan “will be forwarded to appropriate channels for that work.” PWRDF said much of its grants to emergencies is sent through the Action by Churches Together, a worldwide ecumenical relief alliance. “ACT has not issued a call for emergency relief funds for Japan,” said PWRDF on its website. The quake, which struck at 2:46 p.m. (local time), was reported to be one of the most powerful to ever hit Japan. Dramatic videos from the BBC and YouTube have captured cars, ships and buildings being swept away in the tsunami. The disaster also sparked fires in Tokyo and other areas.

Shinya Samuel Yawata, secretary of The Nippon Sei Ko Kai, said the provincial office staff in Tokyo was unharmed, but has yet to hear about the extent of the destruction to Anglican churches, particularly in the Tohoku diocese.

“Unfortunately, we have not heard from people of northern Japan except from the news on the Internet. All phone lines are down because of heavy usage so we do not know much about what is going on,” he told the Anglican Communion News Service (ACNS). He said that while there were some fires in Tokyo, it was not hit as hard as other areas.

[The Anglican Communion in Japan is composed of 10 dioceses. Anglicanism arrived in Japan when the American Episcopal Church sent two missionaries in 1859, according to the Anglican Communion website. The Anglican Church of Canada also sent missionaries later. The first Anglican Synod was held in Japan in 1887. In 1923, the first Japanese Anglican bishops were consecrated in 1923.]

A tsunami alert has been raised in a large swath of the Pacific Ocean, including the Philippines, Indonesia, Taiwan, Hawaii, the Pacific Coast of Russia and North and South America. Japan is also bracing for aftershocks.

The CBC reported that cities and villages along the 2,100 kilometre stretch of the northeastern coastline “were shaken by violent tremors” that reached as far as the capital Tokyo, 250 miles away from the earthquake’s epicentre. “Waves of muddy waters swept over farmland near the city of Sendai, carrying buildings far inland, sometimes on fire, as frantic residents attempted to drive away. Sendai airport, north of Tokyo, was inundated with cars, trucks, buses and thick mud deposited on its runways,” the CBC said.

Sally Keeble, director for the Anglican Communion’s Anglican Alliance, Development, Relief and Advocacy, told ACNS that her office is in contact with Anglican agencies in countries likely to be affected by the disaster.

David Chillingworth, bishop of St. Andrews, Dunkeld & Dunblane, and primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, offered his church’s support and prayers “for all the people who are suffering and whose lives have been affected by this disaster,” and for relief agencies coming to their aid. “Such disaster reminds us of the vulnerability of people living in areas affected by rising sea levels,” he said in a statement.

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