An Interview with Rev. Masahiro Nemoto, Director of the External Relations Department
The Task Force for the Eastern Japan Earthquake dispatched its first relief team, comprising 14 members, to Miyagi Prefecture the day after the March 11 earthquake. Rev. Nemoto, who headed the relief team, gave the following interview after returning to Tokyo.
What was the situation in the disaster areas, and what kinds of activities did the relief team carry out?
In Sendai, where the temperature dropped below zero, electric power, as well as gas and water supplies, were stopped, and many people in the devastated areas took shelter in public facilities. They left all their belongings at home and were unable to contact their families. They felt uneasy, and feared the aftershocks.
According to instructions from Rev. Yoshimasa Watanabe, head of the Sendai Dharma Center, the relief team gave priority to checking on Rissho Kosei-kai members’ safety and made round trips between shelters and members’ homes. We also sent members of our team to the Ishinomaki Dharma Center, which we’d been unable to contact since the earthquake, and brought relief supplies to the Dharma Center from the Tokyo headquarters.
What was the situation of members?
Many members were hit hard by the earthquake and put up with the same hardships as many other people, but no one complained. On the contrary, they were considerate of the other victims. Some helped their neighbors clean their houses and shared food with them before they began to clean their own homes, in which pieces of crushed furniture were scattered on the floor.
One chapter head, who lost her home to the tsunami and whose husband was missing, was actively traveling around to check on the safety of members of her chapter. She said, "I believe my husband would have told me, if he had been here, that I should double my efforts on his behalf for the sake of fellow members. My belief in this cheers me up in going forward." I will never forget her words for the rest of my life. I was truly impressed by her singleminded dedication, as she stood by fellow members and tried to move forward with them hand in hand.
What are some of the things that should be etched in our minds?
What is most important, I think, is to live a simple life by knowing contentment, as President Niwano is teaching us. In more concrete terms, we can show consideration to the victims by continuing our efforts to cut down on the use of electricity, gas, and water, and eat moderately. In the realm of the One Vehicle, in which we all live, everyone, whether a Rissho Kosei-kai member or not, is a member of the Sangha and the human family. At this very moment, when important family members are in deep trouble and difficulty, I hope all of us will practice the spirit of the One Vehicle, through compassion, prayer, and sharing.
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