By Santosh Digal, BosNewsLife Asia Correspondent
NEW DELHI/TOKYO (BosNewsLife)– Christians across Asia prayed for Japan as the strongest earth quake ever recorded unleashed a monster tsunami that pulverized northeastern areas and impacted churches there.
“The wall of water wreaked havoc on the coastal city of Sendai as it moved inland,” explained Paul Hattaway, director of Christian mission group Asia Harvest working in the coastal region, where police said hundreds of bodies had been found.
It was not immediately clear whether Christians had been killed in the earth quake and how many churches were destroyed.
However witnesses said there was huge devastation as a towering wall of water generated by the 8.9-magnitude earthquake — the seventh biggest in world history — sent shipping containers, cars and debris crashing through the streets of Sendai and across open farmland.
A tidal wave of debris-littered mud destroyed everything in its path, television footage showed. “There are dozens of small churches in the area” Hattaway told BosNewsLife in a statement Saturday, March 12.
“Our primary concern today is to ask [Christians] to pray for them. They need God’s help to know how to minister at this time, where to start, how to comfort and what to do.”
Another official of a group representing evangelical churches in Japan expressed concern about the situation. “Each denomination is collecting reports of the churches in disaster stricken areas,” stressed Reverend Paul H. Ueki of the Japan Evangelical Alliance in the city of Yokohama, where tsunami warnings were heard.
However, as the devastation became more clear, Ueki cautioned that “It may take a few weeks for the Japan Evangelical Alliance (JEA) to compile a report about the affected churches.”
He said sporadic aftershocks of the earthquake are still being felt in the country, including even in the capital Tokyo, the world’s most populated metropolis with over 30-million people. There were reports that the death toll crossed 1,600, but Japanese officials
warned that number could rise as thousands remained missing.
There were also reports of a blast at one of Japan’s nuclear power plants, “which may pose a major threat to the survivors’ health,” including churches there, from ensuing radiation, according to the Asia Evangelical Alliance, which includes the JEA.
Prime Minister Naoto Kan has launched a massive rescue operation, involving tens of thousands of soldiers, to help overcome what he has called Japan’s biggest disaster since World War Two.
“We at Asia Evangelical Alliance (AEA) are shocked and deeply grieve the loss of lives and devastation caused by Japan’s strongest-ever earthquake and the tsunami yesterday. Our hearts go out to especially those who have lost their friends and relatives,” said WEA Secretary General Richard Howell, speaking from the alliance headquarters in New Delhi, India.
Hattaway said his group is involved in a relief operation and added that Asia Harvest urged its supporters to “pray too for the Japanese people as a whole.”
He acknowledged that the number of Christian believers “is still very small in a country where both the Mormons and the Jehovah’s Witness’ have grown faster than the evangelical church, where 24 major cities have no church presence.” Additionally, he said, “research has shown that “85 percent of teenagers [in Japan] wonder why they exist at all.”
Christians comprise less than two percent of Japan’s 127-million population with most people following the Japanese indigenous Shintoism and Buddhism religions. (With editing and reporting by BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos)