Friday, January 11, 2013

January 2013 Newletter

For Our Reflection

New Year, New Start

As we start the year we normally have the practice of making a New Year`s resolution. There is just something about the start of the year that gives us the feeling of a fresh start and a new beginning. In reality, there is no difference between Dec 31 and Jan 1. Nothing mystical occurs at midnight on December 31. Yet there is something special that move us to change something within us.

Most of the common New Year`s resolution we make are commitments to quit smoking, to manage our time wisely, and to lose weight. Most Christians would make their New Year`s resolution to pray more, to attend the church regularly and to read the Bible. However, these New Year`s resolution fail just as often as the normal resolutions we have because there is no magical about making a New Year`s resolution.

 Resolving to start or stop doing a certain has no value unless you have a proper motivation for stopping or starting that activity.
So what sort of New Year`s resolution should we make? 

Here are some suggestions:
1. Pray to the Lord for wisdom in regards to what
resolutions we would have make
2. Pray for strength to fulfill the goals we have set
3. Find somebody who have the same goal and who could
help us and encourage us
4. Don`t become discourage with occasional failures;
instead, allow them to motivate us further.
5. Lastly, rely on God`s strength to fulfill the goals we set.

Happy New Year 

Faith in Action

Fukushima Round Table for Migrants Support

"Nothing with us without us"

This saying captures the theme of the Fukushima Round Table for Migrant Support which was held last December 28-29 2012, a gathering of foreigners to create a network of support among themselves. This gathering was attended by 170 people of different nationalities, Prof. Yukio Yamaguchi, Japan College of Social Work, explained the aim as follows;

"The Social Inclusion Support Center is utilizing funds from the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Labor to operate the Yorisoi Hotline as an overall consultation service for people who are vulnerable to social exclusion. Among its services, it has established a multilingual 'Helpline for Foreigners'. However, support is not something to be provided only through the phone. It is important to establish networks and links between supporters including migrants themselves who know their own issues the most. On this occasion, so that we can form support networks for residents with non-Japanese cultural background in the three prefectures devastated by the disaster, we decided to open a round table conference to provide opportunity for exchange and mutual learning between fellow supporters including actual migrants from in- and outside the disaster area.
In the future, we hope that we can contribute to the formation of a nationwide network of migrant support organizations, and especially to the creation of a system where migrants can become their own supporters."

The groups were divided according to language in order to discuss about their needs problems at the same time their strength as a group. After which each group were given the chance to present their discussions to the bigger group.

Many things were realized during gathering particularly, on the need to bring to the front the issues the foreigners facing in Japan and the need to create a network among
themselves for support and sharing of information.

Suggestions such as having this kind of meeting once a year was being propose to the body in the hope to strengthen the bond that was started on this meeting. We look forward for more gatherings like this in order to learn from one another on the different issues we are facing as foreigners here in Japan. 

the Filipino participants

Christmas Celebrations from the Different Communities

Our hearts were filled with joy as we celebrate the birth of our Lord. Each community had their way to welcome Christ. Indeed, we are all blessed. These are some of the pictures of our celebrations.

Kesennuma Community

Fr. Haru with the Ishinomaki Community
Fr. Kawasaki and Fr. Haru celebrating mass

Hirosaki Community

Shirakawa Community

Shirakawa community Children

Ofunato Church


Sharing the Good News

At the start of this year, there are good news that are worth sharing. Its about the work of we are doing here in the Diocese of Sendai, which was featured in ABS-CBN and Japan Times last January 8, 2013 

Tagalog-speaking Indonesian priest helps Pinoys in Japan

Posted at 01/07/2013 12:08 PM | Updated as of 01/07/2013 5:28 PM
MORIOKA, Japan - Father Antonius Harnoko, an Indonesia missionary in Ofunato, Iwate Prefecture, is offering psychological and spiritual support to foreign residents in the northeastern Japan region ravaged by the earthquake and tsunami of March 2011.
Harnoko, 42, is especially helpful to Filipino residents as he speaks Tagalog and holds Masses in the language at the local churches he visits.
"Masses in Tagalog make me feel calm," says a 37-year-old Filipino woman working at a nursing-care facility in Ofunato. "I didn't expect them in Japan."
Harnoko learned Tagalog while studying in the Philippines and came to Japan in 1998 to become a Catholic priest. Working as a missionary in Tokyo and Osaka, he temporarily returned to Indonesia in December 2004 shortly before a devastating earthquake occurred in the Indian Ocean off Sumatra later in the month, claiming 220,000 lives.
Harnoko was in Java at the time and watched the catastrophe on television. "As I had to return to Japan for my church work, I could only pray to God," he recalls.
Following the Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11, 2011, Harnoko applied for a transfer to the damaged region from Hyogo Prefecture in western Japan and was allowed to move to Iwate in November the same year.
The regret he felt at doing nothing after the Sumatra earthquake prompted him to seek the transfer.
In the month after the transfer, Harnoko held a Mass in Tagalog at a community center in Sukagawa, Fukushima Prefecture, for the congregation of a local church damaged by the disaster. Throughout the Mass, some Filipino participants were weeping for fear of radiation contamination from the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
Filipino visitors to a church Harnoko is assigned to in Ofunato are increasing because they can express their worries to him in their native language.
On weekends, Harnoko drives his car to churches in Aomori, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures to offer Masses in Tagalog and listen to worries voiced by Filipino residents.
Foreigners in the disaster-damaged area cannot recover so easily because of cultural and linguistic barriers, Harnoko says, adding, "I will stay here for them."

link to the article

Pinoy wives in Japan’s tsunami-hit area find comfort in church

OFUNATO, Japan – “Diyos ko po.” When the ground shook and buildings trembled that cold afternoon in March 2011, the Tagalog prayer which means “God please help me” were the first words that came instantaneously from Gina Konishi.
The 32-year-old Filipino resident of Ofunato, Iwate Prefecture, was with her 2-month-old daughter at a regular health checkup when the magnitude-9.0 earthquake hit northeastern Japan. Along with her 59-year-old Japanese husband Yukio, the three immediately fled by car to higher ground.
She did not see the tsunami waves. She only recalls hearing the rumbling from the collision of moving buildings.
All Konishi had with her at the time was a bag of 20 diapers for her baby. She did not even have the chance to retrieve her passport or driver’s license.
Konishi first came to Japan at age 19 as a dancer, performing at dimly lit clubs across Japan from night until dawn — Tokyo, Yokohama, Chiba, Yamagata, Fukushima. Drunken patrons would sometimes howl a stream of abuse at her, such as criticizing her for being “good for nothing” or that she was “no good because (she was) Filipino.”
With little time even to sleep, she could no longer bear the harsh working conditions. Around this time, Yukio, a carpenter who she met at the place she worked in Fukushima, came into the picture.
In her eyes, Yukio was a gentle person who was always telling jokes. The two married in 2006 and settled in a small port town in Ofunato where Yukio’s family home is.
Konishi recalled that once when she asked where the church was in the town, she was taken to a chapel-like wedding ceremony hall. Since then, she has given up on going to church.
A few days after the March 11, 2011, earthquake, she gazed down at the town from the hill to where she had evacuated. What she saw was complete havoc — ships and vehicles turned upside down by the massive tsunami, and nothing remained of the Konishis’ home.
In her arms, her baby daughter was laughing. That she and her family escaped unscathed was the one and only relief, Konishi recalled thinking.
In the aftermath of the quake, other foreigners in the area offered their help to Konishi. Among them, Hartatik Sugawara, a 34-year-old Indonesian also married to a Japanese, being aware that it must be difficult for the Konishis to remain at the evacuation shelter with their baby, invited the family to stay at her home instead.
Soon there was also word of church efforts to support foreigners in the disaster-hit areas, such as Mass in Tagalog offered by the Ofunato Catholic church.
Before long, many believers who are foreigners and had been unable to go to church out of consideration for their Japanese families began gathering at such services after the disaster in search of some peace of mind.
Yukie Nogami, a sister of the Rome-headquartered Institute of the Handmaids of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, is among those involved in the church-related support activities.
The 65-year-old sister, who spent a decade since age 29 in the Philippines running a kindergarten there for the institute and has been supporting foreigners in Nagoya after returning to Japan in 1986, said she moved to Ofunato in October 2011 as she felt the urge to contribute to disaster relief there.
Her mission included helping to clear away the rubble, visiting temporary housing for those who have lost their homes, and, most importantly, creating a facility where people can gather regardless of religion.
At “Jinomori Ikoi no Ie,” one of the programs under way is to assist foreign women, many of whom have lost their jobs as a result of the quake, in obtaining qualifications to become nursing care helpers. In addition to those from Southeast Asia like Konishi, wives of Chinese and South Korean origin also gather at the facility.
For example, Nogami helps the women practice Japanese “hiragana” and “katakana” syllables. Using textbooks with the readings provided alongside Chinese characters, they also attended classes by professional lecturers to learn everything from the basics of nursing care to Japan’s nursing care insurance system.
“Of course I’ve been aware there have been an increasing number of foreign wives here,” said Jocelyn Sumigama, 39, who has lived in Ofunato for the most number of years among the Filipino wives in the area. “(But) our bonding has strengthened further since the quake disaster as we helped each other out and studied together.”
At a senior home for the visually impaired in Ofunato, where 10 of the foreigners were undergoing practical training, Konishi smiled as she tried to encourage one of the residents to eat his meal.
“I like their smiling faces,” Hiroshi Murakami, the senior home’s deputy head, said. “Unlike Japanese (trainees), they will actually say they enjoyed the training.”
Murakami added he felt that the Filipinos had an even greater respect for the elderly than Japanese staff. He was so impressed that he wished they could start work immediately.
With an increasing number of elderly people in the disaster-hit areas needing nursing care, “there’s a shortage of staff in this field,” Murakami said.
“Instead of arranging to have foreign nurses come work in Japan, as the government is promoting, it would have been better to open up opportunities for these women who have blended in well with the local community to play an active role,” he said.
Meanwhile for Konishi, who thought she had lost all her belongings in the tsunami, she was fortunately reunited with a small memento — someone had found in the debris a photo of her, clad in a pink kimono taken on the occasion of her wedding, and delivered it to the city offices.
Her wallet has also been found and returned to her with its contents intact. “Japan is not a bad country after all,” she said.
At night after their baby daughter had gone to sleep, Konishi and her husband discuss their future.
“I’ll build us a big house,” Yukio said. Meanwhile, Konishi’s wish is simple. Just a small but warm home will do.
Yumiko Iida and Ryuta Minami, Kyodo
link to the article

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