NCC Japan - Tohoku HELP
The Endowed Course for Practical Religious Studies
Sendai Christian Alliance Disaster Relief Network (Tohoku HELP)
Manager and Representative, "Counseling Room"
Chairperson, Medical Incorporated Association Soshukai
The Great Earthquake and the Need for Religious Care
The Great East Japan Earthquake and ensuing disasters left more than 16,000 dead and almost 3,000 still missing. Our thoughts and prayers are with those lost and missing as well as their families, loved ones and friends.
Soon after these disasters, we launched various programs to help support and encourage those in need. Our programs include the "Counseling Room," a service supported by pastors of all faiths and denominations, the "Telephone Counseling" service to listen to the disaster victims and support those who need to share their thoughts and feelings, "Café de Monk" which arranges tea time get-togethers in the disaster-affected areas where we can listen to the messages of disaster victims, as well as "Radio Café de Monk" that widely broadcasts messages of support to all those affected.
The opportunity to participate in these activities has reaffirmed my awareness of just how important a role a pastor plays in both offering prayers for those departed as well as in alleviating the pain and suffering of those who remain.
Through my work as a medical professional for over 20 years, I have dedicated my efforts to providing at-home palliative care and to supporting those nearing the end of life's journey. I believe that a very important part of this role is to provide "Spiritual Care" to those nearing the end of their lives. Regrettably this type of care is not what physicians can provide. I have been at a loss to find the best way to cope with this difficult situation.
Two years ago I myself was diagnosed with stomach and liver cancer, and I was given a "life expectancy of about 10 months". I felt as if I was standing on the sharp ridge of a mountain. On my right I could still see a bright future; however, on the left there was only darkness with no guidance to help me find my way.
The Need for Japanese-Style Chaplains
Since the end of World War II, there has been a decline in experts who can talk about the meaning of religion, life, and death and offer guidance to those confronted with the uncertainties of death. I believe that this area of "spirituality" is where religious experts should play an important role. With over two thousand years of experience in understanding the nature of life and death through their religious traditions, I believe that chaplains can contribute their expertise by cooperating with medical professionals in an equal partnership in caring for those in need. Accordingly, Japan must foster new types of experts who are able to provide the required support in the context of the religious beliefs unique to our society.
Given this need, in collaboration with Tohoku University, we have launched "The Endowed Course for Practical Religious Studies" that focuses on providing the foundation for theoretical research in this area and that also fosters the creation of spiritual practitioners ("Interfaith Chaplains"). I hope that this project will expand the pastoral role of religion in society.
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