TOKYO (RNS/ENInews) Christians in Japan are looking for survivors and assessing damage to church buildings after Friday’s (March 11) devastating earthquake and tsunami.
The National Police Agency announced that as of Monday about 1,800 people have died and 2,400 are missing. The death toll may eventually reach more than 10,000, according to police.
Churches and Christians in northeastern Japan, the most heavily affected area, are still out of contact days after the disaster.
Studies estimate that 2 percent of Japanese are Christian, with the vast majority practicing Buddhism and the indigenous Shinto religion.
A spokesman for the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan told ENInews that the Rev. Lachapelle Andre, 76, of the Quebec Foreign Mission Society, was killed in Sendai, one of the cities hardest-hit by the quake and tsunami.
The priest went back to investigate damages to the Shiogama Church that he led, said the spokesman.
There were conflicting accounts from diocesan officials about the cause of death, though, with some saying he died of a heart attack or was caught in the tsunami that devoured towns on the coast.
The Anglican Christchurch cathedral in Sendai is badly damaged, according to a statement from Archbishop Nathaniel Makoto Uematsu.
“While there were still so many aftershocks, the church carried out their first Sunday after Lent service in the diocesan office,” he said.
The Sendai-based Northeastern District Center Emmaus of the United Church of Christ in Japan, the country’s largest Protestant denomination, has reported churches and schools have been damaged. No casualties among their members have been reported.
The UCC in Japan also reported a chapel of its Shinsei Kamaishi Church in the coastal fishing city of Kamaishi is “drowned into the water” and filled with mud and oil.
The pastor and his wife were evacuated. Built in 2000, the chapel was known as a pioneer “eco-church,” with a solar-power system and transparent glass roof.
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Saitama, north of Tokyo, reported “severe damage” to a monastery in the coastal city of Mito.
“The wall of the church’s chapel fell down, with the ceiling of one of its rooms broken down,” the diocese said on its website.
The Orthodox cathedral in Sendai was not damaged, according to several Orthodox websites.
The Japan Baptist Union said eight of its local churches in the east coast of Japan have not been in touch with information about their safety.
No casualties have been reported yet from the rest of its churches in that area.
– HISASHI YUKIMOTO, Religion News Service