Severe quake damage to Kumamoto’s Lutheran churches and schools

A church becomes a makeshift shelter for survivors of the earthquake. Photo: JELC

Lutheran church assists affected residents, assesses damage

(LWI) – The Japan Evangelical Lutheran Church (JELC) has launched a disaster relief program in Kumamoto city to rebuild schools and some of its oldest churches, damaged in the earthquake that struck the southern island of Kyushu.

“With this massive and continual earthquake many of them [institutions] were damaged,” JELC President Rev. Tadahiro Tateyama wrote in an open letter appealing for assistance. He noted that many residents of the affected areas still feared for their lives, with over 790 aftershocks reported over the week after the mid-April earthquake.

A 7.3-magnitude quake struck Kumamoto prefecture in the southern island of Kyushu earlier this month. Local media reported that around 50 people died, more than 3000 were injured and over 44,000 were evacuated from their homes. The damage included seven churches and two schools run by JELC

Lutheranism was introduced to Kumamoto 123 years ago. Its institutions are renowned for offering good education, care for people with disabilities and other forms of social welfare support.

Tateyama said the immediate concern was to provide emergency relief and restore livelihoods for people in the affected areas. City water services have been largely restored.  JELC’s relief team is on the ground in Kumamoto, working alongside other responders including the government. The team has assisted with building temporary houses and cleaning debris and garbage.

Rebuilding or repairing the Lutheran churches and schools is more demanding and will require more resources, the JELC president notes in his appeal for assistance from “Lutherans throughout the nation and Lutherans families in the world.” 

LWF Vice-President Eun-hae Kwon expressed the Asia Lutheran communion’s solidarity with the Japanese people and churches. “May God, who has been together with you and given you the strength to overcome the troubles of tsunami and earthquake in 2011 and rebuild your country from that devastation, be with you and grant strength and hope to you in this difficult time and during the recovery.“

The JELC is seeking support for its relief work. For further information contact Rev. Dr Philip Lok, Area Secretary for Asia.