April 2011 – Rector’s Ruminations
Our prayers and support for Japan continue as our Japanese sisters and brothers struggle to cope with the largest disaster since the nuclear devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The 9.0 earthquake off the country’s northeast coast triggered a tsunami that rolled six miles inland destroying villages and towns and causing partial meltdowns at three nuclear reactors.
More than 10,000 people are believed to have been killed, thousands injured and more than 500,000 persons displaced. Takao Oyama, a construction worker, noted that on the coast, thousands of bodies had washed up after having been sucked out to sea.
Making matters worse, according to The Christian Science Monitor, is a “pre-quake national mood of gloom and defeatism fueled by Japan’s polarized political system, which has produced five prime ministers in five years, and an economy mired in two decades of stagnation. If there is any silver lining to this disaster, it’s that Japan now has a chance to tap the unity of its people and reform its society from the ground up.”
Barbara Lewis, a member of our parish, provides a vivid account of her experience while visiting Japan at the time of the disaster (see the article in Emmanuel’s April Newsletter, “Orcasite Barbara Lewis tells her story of being in Japan when the earthquake hit”). What struck me was her account of the graciousness and kindness accorded her by those suffering loss and tragedy during the catastrophe – a mark of Japanese character.
From 1997 to 2004, Liz and I visited Japan on several occasions in my capacity as headmaster of an Episcopal boarding school in New Hampshire, given a fifty-year relationship the School enjoyed with Seikei University that included a student exchange program that began when the former Chairman of Mitsubishi, Minoru (Ben) Makihara, came to this country and enrolled shortly after the end of World War II, and continues to the present. Like Barbara, we were deeply touched by the gracious hospitality, warmth and care beneath the formalities and important customs that govern various meetings and formal dinners. One morning in particular stands out. In an address to the faculty and student body, I complimented them on their successful baseball team and told them that I was a Yankees fan. The following day I was presented with a personalized autographed baseball signed by each member of the team and invited to come to their practice and hit a few grounders, which I did!
On another personal note, after news of the earthquake, I called my brother-in-law, Norman, who is of Japanese descent although he was born and reared in Hawaii. Norm took my sister on her first trip to Japan four years ago. They had the opportunity to visit his ancestral home, Hiroshima, where members of his extended family were lost to another tragedy.
What can we do to respond in support of those suffering in Japan? First, continue to pray for the victims, those aiding in the relief effort and for the rebuilding of the economy and stabilization and strength of the country’s leadership. Second, to continue during this season of alms giving to support the Church in Japan, one of our sister Anglican provinces, through The Episcopal Relief and Development Fund. In the wake of the tragedies in Haiti and Japan, our Christian duty is clear.