Protestants Respond to Japan Earthquake, Tsunami

Protestant groups are offering their prayers, consolation, and support for the citizens of Japan following the 8.9 earthquake and tsunami that rocked the country on Friday.

The quake, which is the largest ever recorded in Japan's history, struck just offshore the country's main island at 2:46 p.m. local time, toppling buildings and causing blackouts, fires, and a tsunami that has inundated parts of the country and hit as far as the west coast of the United States.

Hundreds have been reported dead or missing as aftershocks up to 7.1 in magnitude continue to rattle the island nation.

Over 45 countries and several relief groups have offered to help in the quake's aftermath, with the Japanese government currently accepting teams from Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, and the United States.

The Anglican Church, which has dioceses in Japan and other Pacific countries, have been swift to respond to the disaster, and are currently working to rally support for countries affected or threatened by the disaster.

"We will be co-ordinating contact points for people who might wish to offer help or who might need to be in receipt of help," Sally Keeble, director of the Anglican Alliance, Development, Relief and Advocacy agency told the denomination's news service. "The Alliance will also be contact Anglican/Epsicopal agencies to find out what they are doing to assist."

The Anglican Church in Canada is also accepting donations to assist in the aftermath, while the church's Primate and the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, the head of the global Anglican Communion, sent their prayers and condolences to their brethren and all citizens in Japan.

"We are so saddened by the terrible news of today's 8.9 earthquake and subsequent tsunami that have crushed or swept so many people to their deaths and caused such widespread destruction," Archbishop Hiltz, Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, wrote in a letter to the Archbishop in Japan. "As we follow the news we recognize your very real fears of after-shocks and further tsunamis."

"We assure you of our sympathy and of our prayers for all who have died and those who mourn their loss, for all who are injured and those who tend them, for all who frantically wait word of their loved ones," he said.

"The news of the horrific earthquake in Japan has shocked us all," Archbishop Williams wrote in a statement on his website. "We await further and more detailed news with apprehension, but I want to say immediately that our hearts and our prayers go out to all who have been affected and that we as a church will do what we can to offer practical as well as spiritual support at this time of great suffering and great anxiety for so many."

Other churches responding to the disaster include the United Methodist Church, whose relief arm, the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), has been monitoring the situation and contacting its partners in the region.

The Rev. Cynthia Fierro Harvey, UMCOR's top executive, urged prayers for those affected by the disaster, telling the group's news agency that, "Once again, in the wake of disaster and in the face of widespread need, we rely on the ever-expansive generosity of United Methodists and all people of goodwill to help us respond to those whose lives have suddenly been turned upside down."

Meanwhile, larger ecumenical networks and agencies, including humanitarian network the ACT Alliance, are not issuing an appeal for Japan because it is a "developed country and has existing arrangements for support."

"Members may respond individually in Japan and we will keep you informed of developments there," the ACT Alliance said in an e-mail to its members.

The ACT is preparing, however, for a response to poorer countries in the Pacific where severe impacts are predicted due to the tsunami.

"The Pacific Islands are highly vulnerable and most of them will be touched by the tidal waves," the group said in its e-mail.

ACT general secretary John Nduna said on Friday: "We are deeply concerned about the most vulnerable countries and their people, and we are monitoring the situation closely so that ACT Alliance can direct its resources to where they are most needed, as quickly as possible."

Countries currently on a Pacific tsunami alert include Russia, Marcus Is., N. Marianas, Guam, Wake Is., Taiwan, Yap, Philippines, Marshall Is., Belau, Midway Is., Pohnpei, Chuuk, Kosrae, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Nauru, Johnston Is., Solomon Is., Kiribati, Howland-baker, Hawaii, Tuvalu, Palmyra Is., Vanuatu, Tokelau, Jarvis Is., Wallis-futuna, Samoa, American Samoa, Cook Islands, Niue, Australia, Fiji, New Caledonia, Tonga, Mexico, Kermadec is, Fr. Polynesia, New Zealand, Pitcairn, Guatemala, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Antarctica, Panama, Honduras, Chile, Ecuador, Colombia, and Peru.

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