29 March 2011

Korean Columban Lay Missionary and victims of the tsunami in Japan

Fr John Burger is an American Columban who worked for many years in Japan. he is currently a member of the General Council of the Columbans, based in Hong Kong. He posted this report on his Facebook. Soon-Ho Kim, above right, has been a Columban lay missionary in Japan since 1999. You can read about Soon-Ho Kim's previous work in Japan in Strangers in a Strange Land. She has also written about her work with the Apostleship of the Sea.

Soon-Ho Kim, left, on board a ship docked in Japan.

Sendai (Agenzia Fides) – The Holy See hopes to help the fishermen hit by the tsunami to rebuild their livelihoods: the person responsible for realising this intention in Japan is Soon-Ho Kim, a St Columban lay missionary who has worked in Japan for many years and is currently the Director of the Apostolate of the Sea in Japan. Interviewed by Fides, Soon-Ho Kim reports that there are about 260 ports adversely affected by the tsunami and more than 20,000 boats destroyed: this has devastated the lives of thousands of families who now lack the basic means for their livelihood, with serious damage to the local economy in the three prefectures of Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima. Fides interviewed Soon-Ho Kim.

Can you give us an idea of the damages sustained by the fishermen?

Conditions are very difficult. The roads are destroyed and it is difficult to reach the areas hit by the tsunami. Efforts first need to be made to reach the victims with humanitarian aid. Fishermen are amongst those hit hardest. The number of deaths has not yet been certified, but, according to official data, they have suffered serious damage, losing 111 ports in the Prefecture of Iwate, 142 in that of Miyagi and 10 ports in that of Fukushima. It seems that more than 20,000 fishing boats and vessels have been destroyed, an absolute catastrophe for these people for whom fishing is the main form of subsistence.

What can you do to help them, in keeping with the wishes of the Holy Father?

First of all we are trying to stabilise an efficient network of communication, which is not easy in these conditions. For the first few weeks emergency aid will continue. Then we will try to estimate and understand the extent to which coastal communities have been affected by focusing our attention on fishermen. We will begin reconstruction projects, which may be much larger than the funds at our disposal. We will act in concert with our government agencies to avoid the risk of duplication of aid. (PA) (Agenzia Fides)

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