United Methodist delegates to Inter-Religious Conference on Nuclear Issues, held in Fukushima. From left: Hikori Kokai Chang (UMW Wesley Center), Noriko Lao (UMCOR Japan), Jay Rollins (UMCOR), Kennis Lam (Hong Kong Methodist missionary), Claudia Genung-Yamamoto (UMC missionary Japan), Mark Harrison (GBCS), Kelly Schaefer (UMC missionary Japan).
PHOTO CREDIT: J. Rollins/UMCOR
December 17, 2012—Japan’s horrific disaster of 2011 shocked the nation and the world. It began with a magnitude 9.03 earthquake and a devastating tsunami that led to a nuclear catastrophe with incalculable long-term consequences.
But for all the deep and widespread shock, many in Japan—and many in the country’s faith communities in particular—sadly, were not surprised.
Nuclear safety had long been a major concern of church organizations, and since 2007, the Inter-Religious Conference on Nuclear Issues has been holding meetings to focus national and international attention on the risks that they see as serious and troubling.
This year’s meeting was held, appropriately enough, in Fukushima Prefecture, site of the March 2011 reactor explosions, where clouds of radioactivity blanketed most of the prefecture. The citizens of Fukushima are living with the unpredictable effects of radiation exposure, which can have an impact on generations to come.
Twenty-three religious communities and 11 countries were represented at the conference, and among the international delegations, the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) was represented by James J. Rollins, director of Communications and Marketing.
“We heard evidence from nuclear engineers, scientists, and residents of the Fukushima Prefecture around the issues of nuclear power and the effects (both psychological and physical) that the disaster had on the community,” Rollins said.
Proceedings of the conference included workshop-style discussions of nuclear-energy issues, including often-hidden risks, in spite of safety precautions; ongoing solidarity with suffering communities; the need for analysis and to raise awareness of the dangers; and continuing work for disaster risk reduction, including the risk of human error.
A declaration was issued from the Conference that had been agreed upon unanimously. “The faith leaders felt it was very important that they speak with one voice,” Rollins reported.
Their declaration pledges “to work to abolish nuclear power, to heal the living communities affected by it, and to restore creation as fully as possible.”
While this is not a statement of UMCOR policy, UMCOR will be playing a fully committed role. “We will focus on helping those suffering from radiation poisoning in the years to come,” Rollins explained.
And UMCOR’s considerable experience in developing disaster risk reduction strategies will form an essential contribution to the worldwide push for nuclear safety and recovery. “We will be using the lens of disaster risk reduction to help prevent this type of disaster from reoccurring in the future,” Rollins pointed out.
Your gift to International Disaster Response, UMCOR Advance #982450 will help UMCOR respond to the unfolding needs in Japan and to emergencies around the world.
*David Tereshchuk is a journalist and media analyst and a regular contributor to www.umcor.org.