03/30/2011, 00.00
JAPAN
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Let us help the Japanese people with our witness, missionary says

by P. Ignacio Martínez Báez MG
A Guadalupe missionary with 20 years in Japan in a letter presents stories of sacrifice and altruism in the areas hit by the tsunami and nuclear crisis. He calls on his fellows to reflect on the call to conversion and evangelisation that are behind the tragedy experienced by the people.

Tokyo (AsiaNews) – Everyone was awestruck by the tragedy that hit our brothers and sisters in Japan. In a short span of time, the terrible 9-magnitude quake was followed a devastating 10-metre high tsunami and the problems associated with radiation from the nuclear plant in Fukushima Prefecture.

Media bombarded us with images and reports that held our attention for weeks. Slowly however, we have become used to the tragedy and news about the situation in Japan no longer makes the front pages of newspapers.

In such a dramatic situation, stories of sorrow and sadness abound, but there are also moments of hope. Although we know some already, most will be forgotten or just fill in the hearts of those who experienced them.

I would like to share two such stories, which I learnt directly from friends who lived near the disaster area.

Hideo Takeda, a teacher from Fukushima Prefecture, told me about a group of anonymous heroes who are giving their lives to solve the radiation problem caused by the nuclear plant’s reactors.

Some 279 employees are working in reactor n. 2. They are from Tokyo Denriyoku, the Tokyo-based electrical power company that runs nuclear plants. Using special equipment to protect themselves from radiations, they are trying to re-establish power connections to jumpstart the cooling system.

All these people have put their lives on the line, but they are not alone. Other technicians and employees from Hitachi Seisakujo, the company that designed the reactors, and Kashima Kensetsu, the company that built the plant, have also offered their services.

None of these volunteers is married with family. They are exposed to radiation levels hundreds of times greater than normal and will likely die from long exposure to radioactive material. They are nonetheless cognizant that without their work, many more will suffer from the accident. These technicians are true martyrs, bearing witness to life in the midst of so much sorrow.

Mutsumi Senzaki, a mother who lives in the city of Sendai, one of the areas most devastated by the tsunami, told me that one of her son’s grade one schoolmates lost his father, a policeman who was doing his job when the city was hit by the quake and flooded by the tsunami. He died trying to help others find shelter. Thanks to his sacrifice, many people survived.

This policeman is also a true hero. He gave his life, leaving behind a seven-year orphan, who will grow up nevertheless remembering a father who lost his life so that others may live.

Perhaps, we shall never know with any certainty the true extent of the damages caused by the quake and the tsunami. Many bodies will never be found and many buildings will never be rebuilt. However, the wound on the Japanese people will be the hardest to heal. Hence, I wonder how we can help this people bear its sorrow, desperation and loneliness.

Today, our presence as Christians is needed more than ever. We are men and women with faith and hope in God who can make a small contribution to the moral and spiritual renaissance of the noble people of Japan.

As Guadalupe missionaries, servants and witnesses of hope, united with the people of Japan, we are at a moment of grace and conversion. Before us, a new stage in our hard work commences. A great challenge for conversion is ahead; it is our institute’s main mission.

This is my most heartfelt desire. For this, I pray that we may be able to respond in this difficult time for Japan through our missionary presence among this people.

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