Working With Other Religious Leaders
In April 2011, Tohoku Help, with the cooperation of the Sendai Buddhist Community and the Liaison Council of Religious Organizations in Miyagi, set up “the Counseling Room.”
The Counseling Room was established in May 2011 as a mental counseling organization by religious leaders, and has been involved in activities via telephone counseling, traveling attentive listening sessions at a mobile cafe, “Cafe de Monk”, and radio broadcasting.
Sponsors such as the Liaison Council of Religious Organizations in Miyagi Prefecture and the Japanese Committee of World Conference of Religions for Peace have been supportive of the Counseling Room. This relationship has recently bore fruit.
On the 22nd and 23rd of May, 2012, members of the Japanese Committee of World Conference of Religions for Peace visited Sendai with a project to learn from the religious leaders of the region what crisis support they can give. Our many active religious leaders from the Counseling Room gathered for the project and spoke.
With all self-discipline, it must be understood that all support, away from the scene, deviate, and the further away one gets from the scene, the less conscious he/she will become of that fact. Thus, no matter how much one points out the deviation, the conference never quite gets it. It is always like that.
Then, why not have the conference at the actual scene? It is one idea, one that people draw up a plan in their heads, but never quite get to do it through.
However, this time, the Japanese Committee of World Conference of Religions for Peace made it a reality. This was greatly encouraging. At the conference in Sendai, about 25 religious leaders from all over Japan and 25 local religious leaders gathered for the event. The executive of the Liaison Council of Religious Organizations in Miyagi gave the opening and closing speeches. A conference at the scene, surely, was held here in Sendai.
Below is a summary of the conference, from "Weekly RNS vol.20" issued on May 24, 2012.
1. A Round-Table Meeting for Revival at Sendai WCRP
The Japanese Committee of World Conference of Religions for Peace (WCRP) held the Round-Table Meeting of Religious Leaders for Restoration on May 22 and 23 at the International Center in Aoba-ku of Sendai City.
Over 60 people, including WCRP members who have been involved in crisis support, and members of other local organizations such as members of the Liaison Council of Religious Organizations in Miyagi Prefecture participated in this meeting project by the Earthquake Disaster Task Force to discuss WCRP’s future measures and methods.
Three sessions of discussion were held during the two days.
On the 22nd “The Earthquake Disaster and Mental Care” (proposed by Takeshi Okabe, Chairman of Sasshu-Kai and Director of the Counseling Room of the Heart),” and “Reconstruction of the Local Community” (proposed by Iwayumi Suzuki, Professor at Tohoku University and Office Manager of Counseling Room of the Heart), and
on the 23rd “Support for the Socially Vulnerable” (proposed by Kazuya Egawa, Board member of Fukushima Liaison Revival Center, and Kazuhiko Tada, Representative of Tohno Magokoro Net). Tense discussions were held with many stories from real life experiences over the one year after the earthquake crisis.
In the discussion, a tentative term of “clinical religious expert” was brought up as a suggestion, under the experience that there are some disaster survivors whose hearts doctors and counselors cannot help, and religious leaders have the power to be on the receiving end of such worried hearts. There were many such suggestions that would be future issues not only for the WCRP’s projects, but also for the entire religious community.
A flier of the Counseling Room of the Heart
(From the Newspaper Article)
On May 22nd, the Japanese Committee of World Conference of Religions for Peace (WCRP), a NGO inviting all religious bodies in Japan, held the Round-Table Meeting of Religious Leaders for Restoration in Aoba-ku, Sendai City in light of restoration after the Great East Japan Earthquake to find better ways to support the disaster reconstruction.
About sixty religious leaders gathered for the conference. The chairperson of the Japan committee, Yoshizumi Sugitani opened the conference with the following words; “Being called as religious leaders, we have supported many disaster survivors, but we are unsure whether we were of any help to them and cannot deny the fact that we have regrets and remorse. Learning from the past, we would like to find our next step.” The discussion topics were: “the earthquake disaster and mental care,” and “reconstruction of the local community.”
Takeshi Okabe, chairperson of the medical corporation Sasshu-kai, shared with the audience his experiences as a religious leader listening to the survivors’ many painful stories which were not reported to medical professionals.
The conference will also be held on the 23rd to discuss ways to support the socially vulnerable.