Back to Forum

Consideration for Each Person’s Life

Ten Years after the Great East Japan Earthquake

Ten years have elapsed since the occurrence of the Great East Japan Earthquake and Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant disaster, which struck on March 11, 2011. The earthquake registered a magnitude of 9.0 and maximum seismic intensity of 7.0. As of March 11, 2021, 15,900 people lost their lives, 3,775 deaths were related to the earthquake, 2,525 were reported missing, and about 41,000 people are still alive, though living in evacuation.

However, as some say, this is not a milestone, and nothing is over. When the nuclear incident occurred, all 54 nuclear power plants including those meant for inspection were shut down, and currently 33 units are in operation. Presently we are in a COVID-19 pandemic situation which has pervaded our society on a global scale, and yet the government and TEPCO [Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings, Inc.], are moving nevertheless toward restarting. What’s more, the government is even promoting the holding of the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics. Is now the time for each one of us to refocus on our lives?

At the memorial service, His Imperial Majesty the Emperor declared as follows: “I hope people in difficult situations regain their peaceful daily lives as soon as possible, without being left behind… It is necessary to regard the earthquake disaster not as a thing of the past, but as an issue that is still progressing.”

You do not have to worry. “It’s okay!”

Isn’t it time for us to remind ourselves of cura personalis [care for person] while staying close to each person’s life? I would like to present a concrete example. Dr. R. Hosoya has worked as a pediatrician, and particularly as a childhood cancer specialist for around 40 years, during which period he witnessed the deaths of about 300 children. Currently however this disease is reported to lead to recovery, in about (70-80)% of the cases. At the time of each examination, he always wondered why the disease occurred to the child and not to himself, and he could not restrain his tears. Although he did not seem to be aware of it, yet whenever he finished an examination he would tell the child, “it is okay.”

Pope Francis emphasizes the importance of social love in building a true community and states:

“Social love” [172] makes it possible to advance towards a civilization of love, to which all of us can feel called. Charity, with its impulse to universality, is capable of building a new world. No mere sentiment, it is the best means of discovering effective paths of development for everyone. Social love is a “force capable of inspiring new ways of approaching the problems of today’s world, of profoundly renewing structures, social organizations and legal systems from within” [174] (Fratelli tutti, 183).

The brilliance and fragility of life might be back-to-back. We realize it when we fall sick or when we encounter someone’s death. “Our days are like the grass; like flowers of the field, we blossom. The wind sweeps over us and we are gone; our place knows us no more” (Ps 103:15-16).

To assert that our life is limited to this world, is one way of viewing the situation, and to respond saying, ‘No! True life, which is eternal life, exists beyond,’ is an alternate way of viewing the situation. Here, we are free to take the position of our choice, and yet, depending on the position taken by us, a person’s life can dramatically change.

Life and Caring

“Caring is the human mode of being.” When M. Simone Roach made this statement, she clearly revealed the essence of human beings. She also presented ‘Five Cs’ as elements of caring, namely compassion, competence, confidence, conscience, and commitment. The essence of caring is to be close to the lives of people we meet, and thereby serve each other’s lives. In this way, caring has relationship as its essence. That is to say, in caring, the subject who cares and the object cared for, are always paired. The target of care may or may not be ourselves. In either case, through caring, the caregiver grows as a human being. Also, and especially when the target is a human being, the person who cares and the person who is cared for, grow together.

Regardless of what the case may be, caring is nothing less than an expression of love. Hence, love of God and love of neighbor should become one (cf. Mt 22:34-40). Love of God is caring for God, and love of neighbor is caring for our neighbor. The two are not exactly identical, yet they are inextricably linked. The root of caring lies in God, which in other words implies that it is only through experiencing the love of God, that the love of neighbor as its embodiment, will be born (cf. 1Jn 4:20-21). “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son” (Jn 3:16).