The Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) and the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC) have created the UUA/UUSC Japan Relief Fund to support the work of our interfaith partners in the wake of the recent earthquake and tsunami. The Director of International Resources at the UUA, Rev. Eric Cherry, is currently visiting with partners in Japan.
Last Thursday I arrived in Japan for a long-planned visit with our various interfaith partners and to attend the International Council meeting of the International Association for Religious Freedom (IARF). The significance of this visit increased dramatically following the tragic earthquake and tsunami which caused such terrible damage. Our colleagues and partners are demonstrating incredible strength and commitment throughout this tragedy, and are all deeply appreciative that Unitarian Universalists in the USA and around the world are walking with them in the response and recovery. Let me share a few examples:
At Tsubaki Grand Shrine – a two-thousand year old Shinto Shrine in Suzuka, Japan – I joined with their 25 religious leaders in special prayers for the people of Northeast Japan who have suffered most directly, including the families of Tsubaki priests who have lost their homes in this tragedy. One of the most poignant moments during this visit was hearing Guji Yamamoto explain that in Shinto there is an expectation that people live in harmony with all natural processes – even violent ones such as this – that the suffering is terrible and must be responded to, but that the earthquake and tsunami are not value-laden in themselves. On the last night of my visit to Tsubaki a special “Misogi” purification ceremony was held with approximately 50 people – approximately half of the participants are directly involved with relief work in the northeast.
At the Konko Church of Izuo – a member of the Konko-kyo religious movement, a special 5th year anniversary service remembering the life of Rev. Toshio Miyake was held. Rev. Miyake was the founder of the Church in Osaka and a close interfaith partner of the UUA during the establishment of the World Conference of Religions for Peace. During the service, spiritual support was extended to all those who are suffering in Japan. In the short-term, the Konko Church of Izuo has focused on relief efforts like providing search-and-rescue dogs but also assisting Konko-kyo churches and members who were directly impacted.
Currently the International Council of the International Association for Religious Freedom is meeting in Kyoto, hosted by the Mitsumi-kai religious community there. During the meetings, contributions from the IARF UK chapter, USA chapter, and others have been received. The leader of Mitsumi-kai has agreed to seek the advice of the Japan Liaison Committee (a long-term coordinating body of multiple interfaith partners) in determining the best way to direct these funds.
Later today I’ll leave for Tokyo to meet with our long-term friends and partners at Rissho Kosei-kai to have similar conversations about their involvement in recovery work with their impacted congregations and in general. Finally, I’ll join with the Dojin Christian Church (Universalist) over the weekend to bring the UUA’s deep condolences, ongoing spiritual support, and long-term solidarity in the recovery work.
Please enjoy a photo slideshow from the trip so far (below). I’ll add another blogpost following the visits in Tokyo.