Caritas Japan: ‘We’re Not Living in Solitude, but Solidarity’

Japan relief

Caritas Japan responds with relief supplies following a massive earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan March 11. Photo by Caritas Japan

The outpouring of support following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that devastated part of East Japan has overwhelmed Bishop Isao Kikuchi, the president of Caritas Japan. The tsunami-affected area of Miyako City is his hometown. But no family members are there now. Miyako was one of several coastal cities badly damaged by the tsunami.

CRS is committed to Bishop Kikuchi and Caritas Japan as they help disaster victims recover from the overwhelming destruction caused by the disaster. The road to recovery will be a long one, but it’s already begun thanks to the outpouring of support Caritas Japan has received through partners such as CRS.

Caritas Japan is now in the first phase of relief work, expected to last about three months. This phase includes working with parishes and religious congregations to provide shelter to those whose homes were destroyed. They’ve also opened a soup kitchen that offers food and water for those living at the shelters. They’ve sent volunteers into the tsunami-affected areas to help clean up houses owned by senior citizens. And they’ve opened centers in the cities of Shiogama and Ishinomaki to coordinate the logistics of working with hundreds of volunteers who’ve offered to help.

The second phase, the rehabilitation phase, will begin when evacuees move from shelters to temporary housing. This is the longer, more costly phase of the recovery effort, usually lasting several years. Caritas Japan will focus on setting up temporary homes and helping people move into them, and provide ongoing psychological support and mental-health assistance where needed.

In an interview with Caritas Internationalis—the umbrella network of Catholic charitable organizations throughout the world—Bishop Kikuchi responded to all the expressions of solidarity and support the organization has received.

“I would like to express my sincere gratitude to all of you, our friends in the Caritas confederation, and through you, to all the good people who showed their willingness to support Japan during the time of this disaster with prayers, messages and donations,” he said. “A tremendous number of emails we received in our office in Toyko reminded us that we are not living in solitude, but solidarity.”

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