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Asia steps up response to quake crisis

Aid and donations add to messages of sympathy from around the region

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Asia steps up response to quake crisis
The city of Sendai was at the centre of the quake.
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Religious and humanitarian organizations throughout Asia are stepping up efforts to provide assistance and donations to people suffering after the largest earthquake ever recorded in the country devastated towns and cities in northern Japan. Catholics in Greater China expressed solidarity with the earthquake victims in Japan. The (Catholic) Jinde Charities in northern Hebei province sent a letter to Bishop Isao Kikuchi of Nigata, president of Caritas Japan, to express sympathy and condolences towards Japanese clergy, faithful and the many victims. The national charitable organization also offered an initial US$10,000 as “a symbol of fraternity” to support Caritas Japan’s relief efforts, said the letter from Jinde. In the South Korean capital, Cardinal Nicholas Cheong Jin-suk of Seoul said in a message that “the rescue work [to find] survivors should be done as soon as possible,” praying for quick recovery of survivors. Cardinal Cheong also promised his archdiocese would send emergency aid of US$50,000 to Japanese victims. His message was conveyed to Archbishop Ikenaga Jun of Osaka, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan, and Archbishop Okada Takeo of Tokyo. The threat of a tsunami following Friday's 9 magnitude quake was replaced Monday by fears of catastrophe at nuclear power stations damaged in the quake. Police have so far confirmed 1,597 deaths and 1,481 people missing across the affected areas in north-eastern and eastern Japan. About 1,000 bodies were found coming ashore on hardest-hit Miyagi’s Ojika peninsula, where 10,000 people were reported missing from one single town. The response of Catholics in Nepal was prayer. At Masses on Saturday and Sunday priests and faithful paused to pray for Japan. In central China, Bishop Anthony Dang Mingyan of Xi’an and Father Stephen Chen Ruixue, director of the diocese’s Catholic Social Service Center, have sent consolatory letters via email to their friends in Japan, including Chinese faithful who work there, Japanese priests and a layperson who studied in Xi’an years ago. “We expressed our concern and prayers for their safety, and asked if there is anything we can offer to help,” said Father Chen. The diocese also plans to dedicate requiem Masses for the deceased on the seventh day after the quake, according to Chinese custom. Across mainland China, many parishes added prayers for the Japanese victims to their Sunday Masses. The Seoul government has already sent a 102-member emergency service team to the worst damaged northeastern coastal area of Japan. The Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism announced today it would send some US$89,000 and dispatch 500 volunteers. Reverend Kim Young-ju, secretary of the National Council of Churches in Korea, issued a message saying he was sure that Japanese people would overcome this tremendous disaster as they have got over earthquakes wisely. The (Protestant) Christian Council of Korea asked today its faithful to make donation for Japanese people, praying for the area affected to be restored quickly. Also, the Salvation Army Korea Territory announced today it would start to collect money for them for a month. In Macau, Bishop Jose Lai Hung-seng asked all parishes to pray for quake victims of the Asia-Pacific region at Sunday Masses. Archbishop John Hung Shan-chuan of Taipei said on Saturday that the Catholics in Taiwan felt sad about the destructive quake in Japan. He called on local Catholics to start fund-raising for immediate relief support, to fast, and to pray in Masses before the Easter. In Hong Kong, more than 500 Catholics have joined a Facebook group calling for prayers for the quake victims in response to the calls of Pope Benedict XVI and Bishop John Tong Hon. Prayers for victims and survivors of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami were said on Sunday in churches throughout the UK, where the Catholic Fund for Overseas Development (CAFOD), UK arm of Caritas International, launched an appeal for Pacific Rim communities that may have suffered damage in the tsunami.

Although damage outside Japan was minimal, CAFOD's head of humanitarian programs, Mike Noyes, said: "We could see the tsunami having significant impact in potentially very vulnerable places.”

The charity Christian Aid said its Philippine partners helped evacuate vulnerable coastal communities ahead of the tsunami. In Manila, the leak of radioactivity and explosions at a damaged nuclear power station prompted renewed calls for the government to abandon any plans to use nuclear energy for power generation in the Philippines. Bishop Deogracias Iñiguez, head of the public affairs committee of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), said the Church has been proven right in consistently opposing the revival of the nuclear facility. “I think they should intently follow what is happening in Japan. … We have long been opposing it due to its possible negative effects in the country,” he told CBCP News. Japan on Monday thanked Philippine agencies and groups for their messages of sympathy and offers of assistance following the quake. Japan urged those wishing to give donations to direct the aid through the Philippine Red Cross, as it presently has no integrated system to accept donations.
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