Washington (BWA)--Baptists are responding compassionately to a major earthquake and tsunami that have hit Japan in the afternoon of March 11.
Baptist World Alliance (BWA) General Secretary Neville Callam sent letters of support and solidarity to BWA member bodies in the East Asian country. Callam expressed concern for the people of Japan and informed Baptists in the country that BWA will make appropriate responses in the wake of the disaster.
"I have learned, with deep concern, of the devastation caused by the earthquake and tsunami that have affected your country," Callam wrote. "I write on behalf of the Baptist World Alliance to express our solidarity with you at this time and to offer you assurance of our prayers for all affected persons."
A Baptist World Aid Rescue24 team comprising persons from Hungary, Singapore and the United States are heading to the disaster zone to join with local Baptists in their relief and rescue efforts. The team will assess needs and requirements with a view to deploying other team members to the country and providing needed supplies.
The BWA was informed that a workshop was being held by the Japan Baptist Convention when the earthquake occurred. "The group was having its closing worship service when they felt the strong tremors of the earthquake," Claudia Sherer reported from Japan. "Most of the people in attendance were unable to start their trip home because transportation in that region was at a standstill, so tonight they're all staying in the convention building, safe, dry, and warm," she said.
"Thousands of people are stranded in train stations and worse places for the night.... Many are in relief centers, schools, public buildings tonight, while others are out in the cold, or are missing. Indeed, the people of Japan need prayer tonight," Sherer stated.
An earthquake measuring 8.9 occurred in the western Pacific Ocean 130 kilometers or 81 miles east of the city of Sandai in the mid afternoon of March 11. The quake created tsunami waves of up to 10 meters or 33 feet, sweeping aside cars and flooding various buildings as the waves traveled inland. The quake was preceded by several powerful foreshocks and was followed by a number of strong aftershocks.
An estimated 1,000 persons have been confirmed dead in Japan at the time of reporting, and another 530 missing. Many more are feared dead.
At least 20 countries issued tsunami warnings.
There are four BWA member bodies in Japan: the Japan Baptist Conference, the Japan Baptist Convention, the Japan Baptist Union, and the Okinawa Baptist Convention with a total membership of more than 42,000 in more than 450 churches.
Donations may be sent to the BWAid Emergency Response Fund at http://www.bwanet.org/bwa.php?site=general&id=4 or to:
Baptist World Aid
405 North Washington Street
Falls Church, VA 22046