2014: InterConf Sendai: Declaration

International Conference on the East Japan Disaster
March 11-14, 2014    In Sendai,   Japan.

Declaration of the International Conference on the East Japan Disaster: 

“Resisting the Myth of Safe Nuclear Energy: The Fundamental Question from Fukushima”

March 11-14, 2014, Tohoku Gakuin University in Sendai 
Sponsored by UCCJ.

The name "Fukushima" became known worldwide after March 11, 2011, when a massive 9.0-magnitude earthquake hit the Tohoku region and the ensuing powerful tsunami knocked out all the power sources at the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO)’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, causing the meltdown of three nuclear reactors. As a result, an enormous amount of radioactive material was released into the air and into the groundwater, spreading to the surrounding land, rivers, lakes and ocean. Radioactive contamination of the air and sea has continued into the present, causing more than 300,000 people to suffer, with no end of the calamity in sight. We have gathered in Sendai to commemorate this event and to reflect on our own responsibility and responses as Christians in the light of God’s compassion and transforming love to the world. God calls us to repent and to turn towards life. As an international group, we have been listening to a confession of sin from the Japanese Christians and reflecting on our own complicity in sinful economic and environmental systems that threaten God’s good creation and the lives of our brothers and sisters around the world.

1. Confession of Sin
We confess before God and the people of the world that at the root of the nuclear disaster lie sins against God that have been committed by all of us who live in the modern world, intentionally and unintentionally, individually and collectively. To confess and repent of these sins is what we believe God wants us to do at this point. We also believe that only by doing so will we find, by God's mercy, a new path for tomorrow opening up before us.

Our sins derive from the original sin of humanity, as described in the third chapter of Genesis. God created humankind in his own image (Imago Dei), which means that humans were created as beings who can responsibly relate to God. For this purpose, God gave humans free will and gifted them with intelligence, sensitivity, reason and understanding as tools to live in responsive relationship with God. However, we frequently use the gifts of God to pursue our own self-interests and affluence, abandoning their responsive relationship with God. Herein is the essence of the original sin of humankind. The recent nuclear disaster was just another manifestation of that original sin, which takes the form of the following seven sins we have fallen into.

The First Sin: Pride
The first sin is the pride of self-conceitedness as to believe that human technology would be able to control and safely manage nuclear power that is “the fruit of the forbidden tree” for modern-day men and women.

The Second Sin: Greed
The second sin is the sin of greed, which resulted in not being able to control the desire for prosperity and affluence through the use of nuclear power. This greed is still manifest in the powers to be that are trying to maintain the use of nuclear power.

The Third Sin: Idolatry
Having fallen into sinful greed, we started worshiping and serving economic interests and wealth as idols rather than relying on the true and living God, thus falling into the sin of "idolatry." “Greed is idolatry” (Colossians 3:5). Nuclear power plants and nuclear fuel reprocessing facilities are the temples of this idol worship, maintained by "the myth of safety," which is based in an unscientific way of thinking that results in ungrounded, easy reliance.

The Fourth Sin: Cover-up (Genesis 3:7)
Under the "culture of secrecy" prevailing in the national government, electric power companies and local authorities, the danger of nuclear power and its relationship with nuclear weapons has been concealed to the utmost, along with information about nuclear accidents and problems, with only its so-called safety and advantages being emphasized. The mass media has cooperated with this manipulation. This has caused the local population, and indeed the entire nation, to be left in the darkness of anxiety and paranoia. This manipulation of information and concealment of the facts while pushing its agenda forward has been a basic characteristic of this so-called “Nuclear village” and indeed, it can be said that this was a cause of the accident itself. “Concealment (hiding away the truth)” is the fourth of our sins.

The Fifth Sin: Laziness
At the same time, however, we should also blame ourselves for not trying to learn the "inconvenient truth." When Adam and Eve were hiding among trees, God asked them: "Where are you?" (Genesis 3: 9). We are also standing before this same question from our Lord. Knowing that the path promoted by the state and electric companies are dangerous, we have believed uncritically what they proclaimed, and we have failed to oppose the drive for nuclear power plants. Also we have failed to understand what was actually going on and have failed to perceive the pain of the rural people and those who were far away from affluence and power, not seeing that this system makes them into sacrificial victims. We have blindly accepted it, and so here we find this sin of “laziness” that led to indifference and neglected to learn from history.

The Sixth Sin: Irresponsibility
Nuclear power generation has been promoted without establishing an adequate method to dispose the radioactive waste. Moreover, even though no clear end is in sight for the Fukushima Daiichi disaster, the government of Japan is trying to restart nuclear power plants and export the technology to foreign countries. We must say this is a lack of responsibility towards future generations and the people of foreign countries.

The Seventh Sin: Shifting Blame to Others
This nuclear disaster was a consequence of neglecting various warnings having been issued for decades, and thus it is a man-made disaster. In spite of the magnitude of the damage, the national government, the electric power companies, the local authorities and we have not admitted our responsibility, but instead are shifting blames to others. Therefore, we have deeply damaged the personhood and love given by God.

We, facing the realities of the nuclear power plant catastrophe, confess our sins before God who, despite these sins, has not destroyed humankind and symbolically “clothes us with garments of skin” (Genesis 3:21), and so we pray with a united heart as people who have received God’s mercy.

2  Prayer

May God's support and consolation be given especially to those suffering as a result of the forced evacuation from their homes, and who have yet to see any prospect of returning, as well as to those who have lost their source of livelihood as a direct or indirect consequence of this tragedy.

May God protect those people who work amid the danger of radiation exposure day in and day out to end this disaster. For that purpose, may wisdom be garnered from all over the world to open up a path to end this calamity.

May all the people who are responsible for the disaster, directly or indirectly, be forgiven and brought to repentance through the atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ, God’s only Son.

3 Resolution and Call for Response

We believe in the God of Life. Jesus Christ has come that all persons and all of creation may have life in its fullness. We believe that God invites each of us into partnership with him in the healing of brokenness and the restoration of right relationships between people and creation.

We express our gratitude for God’s faithful servants who have reflected the light of God’s unending love amid the darkness of the East Japan Disaster.

At this conference we were blessed by the powerful witness of students, laity and pastors who have served over these last 3 years as God’s hands in the affected communities— removing mud and cleaning up debris, repairing homes, consoling the broken hearted, listening to the stories of survivors, dreaming of a future that values life together and challenging the myth of nuclear safety perpetuated still today by industry and government.

We affirm these acts of love and justice and pray that God’s comforting and sustaining presence may give strength to these ministries in the months and years ahead.

We commit ourselves to the following under the guidance of the Holy Spirit:

1. To remember the people of Fukushima as well as all people who, being symbolized by the name Fukushima, have been victims of radiation and acknowledge their right to be protected by sharing their stories. We want to listen with compassion to the voices of the victims of the triple disasters (earthquake, Tsunami, and radioactive contamination), the people who have helped them and still accompany them on the road to recovery.

2. To the rehabilitation and restoration of victims of radiation exposure by helping them to procure radiation meters so that they can take control of their own protection, and affirm their rights to accurate health information, services and just compensation.

3. To value the protection of life and its worth more than economic, political and national interests.

4. To fulfill our responsibilities to future generations by responsible stewardship of all creation.

5. To the abolition of nuclear power plants, nuclear fuel reprocessing facilities and nuclear weapons and to insist that the industry provide a solution capable of isolating the already existing wastes from the environment for the full time frame of their inherent hazards. To prevent the development of technology for future nuclear power sources and to restore lands ravaged by mining in order to produce nuclear fuel.  

6. To build a global solidarity network of churches, ecumenical institutes, NGOs and other organizations to gather and share accurate information and support each other in speaking the truth and taking concrete actions to promote a nuclear-free world.

7. To promote and invest in renewable sources of energy and to reduce energy consumption and increase energy efficiency through simpler life-styles.

8. To invest in the future of our youth to train them to assume responsibility to be servant leaders and to educate our churches to promote critical discussion and become agents of change in order to encourage others to see the importance of the issue.

Contact: Rev. Makoto Kato, Executive Secretary for Ecumenical Ministries,
The United Church of Christ in Japan