Today is the second anniversary of the devastating earthquake and tsunami that hit northeastern Japan on March 11, 2011.
The massive destruction and loss of human life was compounded by the threat of radiation from four damaged nuclear reactors. Two years later, reconstruction is still uncertain in many areas hit by the disaster because of the dangerous radiation levels. Unitarian Universalists gave very generously to a joint UUA-UUSC emergency relief account, eventually donating over $560,000, of which the UUA granted half to historic faith partners in Japan carrying out relief and UUSC granted to Japanese social organization focusing with women and immigrant workers.
The UUA supported historic faith partners,the Tsubaki Grand Shrine, Konko-kyo, Rissho Kosei-kai and the Dojin Universalist Church in their relief efforts which combined spiritual and tangible assistance to their constituencies in Sendai. This support quickly provided relief supplies, made it possible for worship halls to serve as community emergency centers, and provided trucks to reach isolated people.
Later UUA support helped to rebuild sanctuaries and worship centers devastated by the Earthquake. Most recently, support has gone to Rissho Kosei-kai’s long term recovery support work installing radiation indicators in the Fukushima area, and portable radio-scopes for their Fukushima Division office. Throughout this partnership work the deepest appreciation expressed by our partners has been for our solidarity and care – a priceless contribution as every one of us knows from our own experiences of crisis and tragedy.
The UUSC focus on marginalized groups in disasters led it to develop programs with immigrant workers in Japan with an emphasis on non-Japanese speaking immigrants, including the high number of non-Japanese women married to men from the northeast. These included immigrant run multi- lingual radio programs with call in shows to provide information, advice and support to those isolated by language, and establishing a multi-cultural, multi-lingual community support center in MinamiSanriku run by immigrants and Japanese. This provided legal aid, volunteer coordination, support services and communal dining.
UUSC also helped establish a multi-lingual domestic violence hotline providing immigrant women with a range of supports and connections to available services. Finally, UUSC worked with a network of women’s groups to “engender” Japan’s national disaster response.