Because of its location on the Pacific Rim of Fire, the 2011 United Nations World Risk Report rates Japan as one of the top 5 "extremely exposed" countries to natural disaster. The Great East Japan earthquake of 3.11 was unexpected, and the resulting mega disaster was something not even Japan could adequately have prepared for.
The 3.11 earthquake has made Japan an anxious nation, constantly on edge. You can feel it, see it... Earthquakes are common here, and every time things begin to shake there is a moment of pause, a quick glance up at the ceiling and then, after the shaking stops, the shrug of the shoulders and a bit of a sigh of relief.
There is good reason to be concerned. Scientists predict another massive earthquake will hit Japan sometime in the near future. Emergency planners are preparing for various disaster scenarios, including the possibility of a huge number of casualties and devastated cities with very little food and water.
The relatively tiny Christian community of half a million members (less than 1% of the population of Japan) contributed magnificently to the post 3.11 relief effort. Dr. Brian Stiller of the World Evangelical Alliance noted during his visit to the disaster area, that the church in Japan has proven to be "punching above its weight". But there is a growing awareness and sense of urgency that the church, as a whole, needs to be much better prepared for the future.
Under the leadership of the Japan Evangelical Association (JEA), the Disaster Response Christian Network of East Japan (DRCNet) is coordinating vital preparation for future disasters in Japan. One initiative is the training of Disaster Response Chaplains. These chaplains utilize specialized training in crisis intervention to provide spiritual and emotional care for survivors.
This past July, leaders from the Salvation Army Japan, World Relief USA, Humanitarian Disaster Institute of Wheaton College USA, and CRASH Japan gathered for a Disaster Response Chaplain forum in Tokyo. Japanese pastors and lay leaders met with these groups to explore international models of disaster response spiritual care. Based on the energy and success of this event, a second forum is planned for November of 2012. The first official training seminar is slated to begin in February 2013. The ongoing vision will be to conduct chaplaincy training seminars across the nation for both pastors and laity.
Reverend Kenichi Shinagawa, General Secretary of the JEA, is hoping this initiative will help the church continue to establish its reputation as a place "where people's spiritual and emotional needs are cared for". Jonathan Wilson, President of CRASH Japan similarly states that "Christians are known and respected around the world for being pioneers in spiritual and emotional care".
One of the critical implications of this developing DRCNet model in Japan is the impact it may have on the wider Asian Christian response to disasters. Representatives from countries like the Philippines (which ranks number 3 on the United Nations Disaster World Risk Chart) will be invited to the February Seminar to act as observers.
This initiative needs your prayer and financial support. For more details regarding the forum, please read our summary of the events.