03/15/2011, 00.00
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Putting the past aside, Caritas Korea will do all it can for Japan

by Joseph Yun Li-sun
The tsunami and earthquake that devastated Japan have had an unexpected consequence. Japan’s historic enemy, South Korea, has toned down its traditional anti-Japanese rhetoric in order to provide aid. Leading the way, the Catholic Church is sending messages and donations, calling on the faithful to pray and raise funds for victims and survivors. The bishop of Daejeon tells Catholics to put the past behind them and remember that we are all “brothers”.

Seoul (AsiaNews) – Japan’s devastating quake and the tsunami that followed did not only cause victims and nuclear dangers. It also generated a wave of solidarity across Asia towards a country that is viewed less and less with great misgivings. China and South Korea, Japan’s traditional adversaries but also its closest geographic neighbours, have expressed condolences to the Japanese government and sent humanitarian aid to the affected people. South Korean Catholics and Catholic organisations are leading the way in providing aid.

On Saturday, Card Nicholas Cheong Jin-suk, archbishop of Seoul, sent a message to all parishes, asking the faithful to pray for the missing, that they might be found alive. He urged rescue teams to work with speed to save as many human lives as possible. The prelate also pledged US$ 50,000 in aid to survivors.

The most significant step was taken by the president of Caritas Korea, Mgr Lazzaro You Heung-sik, bishop of Daejeon, who called on the faithful and on all Koreans to put aside the historic animosity between Korea and Japan and “pray for the victims and the survivors” of the worst earthquake that has hit the Land of the Rising Sun.

In a message to Caritas Korea officials, Mgr You said, “Japan is without a doubt a country of which we have bad memories. But we are Catholic and believe in God and His Word. For this reason, we must pray, help and love our [Japanese] brothers and sisters”.

The prelate signed off his appeal by urging all those who can to go to Japan “and do all they can to help with love.”

Caritas Korea has already allocated US$ 100,000 for aid.

The president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Korea, Mgr Peter Kang U-il, sent a message to his Japanese counterpart, Mgr Ikenaga Jun, to express solidarity with every possible type of aid for the victims. The Korean Bishops’ Conference has called on the country’s 16 dioceses to start fund-raising for Japan.

The faithful have heeded the bishops’ appeal in large numbers. Messages of solidarity with the people of Japan have been posted online. Some read: ‘Japan, you can do it! Go for it!’, ‘So close, yet so far. Nevertheless, we are one family on the globe,’ and ‘We are neighbours who can help each other when the other is in need.’

Other Christian denominations are also mobilising. Rev Kim Young-ju, secretary of the National Council of Churches in Korea, said that he was certain that the Japanese people would overcome this terrifying disaster for they have done so in the past.

The (Protestant) Christian Council of Korea today called on its faithful to donate money for the Japanese people, as well as pray that the area affected be quickly rehabilitated.

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