Sister Ana Alvarado, a Peruvian religious sister of the Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Conception in Japan stated that her community will continue its efforts in the country.
Sister Alvarado spoke with CNA on March 18 and described the tragic situation facing the thousands of Japanese arriving in the Diocese of Saitama, located 111 miles south of Fukushima and 43 miles from Tokyo.
The Peruvian sister, who directs Hispanic ministry in Saitama, said there is widespread fear of an explosion at the Fukushima plant, which is leading to an increase in the number of people fleeing the area. A nuclear power plant in Fukushima was damaged by the country's March 11 earthquake and tsunami.
“We have chosen to take evacuees in,” Sister Alvarado said. “There are also some people who have been affected here, but not as many as our brothers and sisters to the north. For this reason a notice has been sent to all the parishes, convents and faithful asking them to open their doors to evacuees from the Diocese of Sendai,” where shelters and evacuation centers are filled to capacity, she said.
“I have received many phone calls from Peruvians who have decided to return to Peru because of the situation.” She added that since March 17 she has “been helping a number of people process their paperwork or pick up their test results from the hospitals to take them back to Peru,” she said.
Sister Alvarado said that although the situation is very difficult, “I feel more than ever that my mission is here now, to accompany those who stay and detach myself from those who are leaving, many of whom are leaders in our parishes.
“I hope they will take the experience of faith they have had here to wherever they go,” she added.
Sister Alvarado applauded the solidarity and quick response from the Hispanic community in Saitama, where many were willing to open their homes to families from the north. The diocese is developing an action plan to assist the families who are evacuating.
“This is all we can do right now as a Church. The experience of the last two years, which began with the global economic crisis, led our parishes to open their doors and hearts to help many people who were left unemployed and homeless,” she recalled.
Sister Alvarado said the beginning of Lent this year “will remain etched in our hearts. Together with Christ we are experiencing the Way of the Cross towards Calvary, trusting that in the end resurrection with Him will come.”
The Missionaries of the Immaculate Conception have 21 members in Japan, eight living in Fukushima, where they operate a school.
“It is true that the images in the media are harsh and very sad, but hearing the people express thanks for being alive and seeing the joy on their faces when they learn a family member, neighbor or friend is alive brings tears to our eyes,” she continued.
“Japan is seen as a powerful, rich and technologically advanced country,” Sister Alvarado said, “but the heart of Japan can only be seen with the heart.”
“In every interview on television the people say ‘Gambarimasu’ (an expression of encouragement). I think that many people express their hope with this word. Of course it is painful for them to see they have lost all of their material things, but the joy of being alive is stronger,” the Peruvian sister said.