Sr. Toni Harris, OP, sends a short report on her visits and meetings in Vietnam and Japan: One Year Later: Dominicans near Fukishima, Japan:
Both experiences reinforced my conviction that Dominican Sisters around the world are deeply committed to our Dominican Mission and Charism. Although we are diverse, we continue to be united in our essentials.
The children in the kindergarten of the parish in Minami Soma are beautiful. Minami Soma is about 25-km (16 miles) from the Fukushima nuclear power plant which was critically damaged by the “311” earthquake and tsunami. (Minami Soma is just a few kilometers beyond the 20-km mandatory radiation evacuation zone.) The parish is served by Raymond Latour OP who is the pastor of the parish Kita-Sendai. About 80 children attended the kindergarten before the nuclear disaster; now, about 16 are coming to school. Either families have moved away or parents are afraid to send their children to school because of radiation levels. Government regulations now permit only one hour of play out-of-doors for children in that area because of radiation concerns. The Minami Soma kindergarten playground now has a large monitor for radiation; it stands about 2 m (6 ft) tall. People there seem unsure of what the numbers mean and readings vary depending on devices used to detect radiation.
Some 20,000 people were killedand tens of thousands more injured because of the earthquake and tsunami. It is estimated that 150,000 people have been displaced, mostly because of radiation levels. In February 2012, I had the opportunity to visit our Dominican Sisters in Japan. My visit began in the area affected by the earthquake and tsunami. Sendai, the largest city in the North (Tōhoku Region), is about 85-km (53 miles) from the Fukishima nuclear power plant. The Dominican Sisters of the Roman Congregation have about 60 Sisters in Japan and most are in the Sendai area. Thanks to their warm hospitality, I was able to better understand the effects of the 3 March 11 disaster. Our Brother, Raymond, kindly agreed to drive us to areas where we could see the destruction
Some of our Dominican Family members explained to me that they see the current situation in the “311” affected areas as a matter related to human rights. Most people seem to lack confidence in government reports on the radiation threat. People who lived within the 20-km evacuation zone have received government assistance with their relocation needs. However, people who live just outside that zone are unable to get government help. Therefore, only those who are financially better-off can afford to relocate. Lower-income residents are “stuck.” Pregnant women and families with children are especially anxious about their situation. Additionally, there is considerable political and social pressure to continue to help with “clean-up” efforts connected with the debris resulting from the earthquake and tsunami. However, residents are unsure of the radiation levels of this debris. In response to these issues, we hope to connect these Dominicans in Sendai with our Brother, Olivier Poquillon OP, in Geneva at the UN Human Rights Council.
After my stay with the Sisters of the Roman Congregation in the Sendai area, I continued my travels south (or west). I had opportunities to visit in several cities the two other Dominican congregations in Japan: the Maryknoll Sisters of St. Dominic and the Religious Missionaries of St. Dominic.
It was possible for me to visit Japan because I had traveled to Asia for the Dominican Family Leadership Conference in Vietnam, 5-11 Feb 2012. So, after 12 days with our Dominican Sisters in Vietnam, I had the opportunity to spend the following 12 days with our Sisters in Japan! Using this link,
< http://db.tt/NlhuRXC8>, you will be able to view a power point slide show which summarizes my recent visits to Vietnam and Japan. Both experiences reinforced my conviction that Dominican Sisters around the world are deeply committed to our Dominican Mission and Charism. Although we are diverse, we continue to be united in our essentials.
Toni Harris OP- March 2012