Cranes, candles and cherry blossoms

Cranes, candles and cherry blossoms

Since March 11, north-eastern Japan has been the focus of global attention after the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis.

Bathurst city in New South Wales is the sister city of Ohkuma — just five kilometres from the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant — and has been deeply affected by the unfolding events in Japan.

Over the past 20 years almost 1,000 Bathurst residents have visited Ohkuma or have hosted Ohkuma residents in their homes.

One Bathurst resident was teaching in Ohkuma during the earthquake and tsunami. In March, Bathurst was to host students from Ohkuma: 7 of the 11 students have fathers who work at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

In response to the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis, Bathurst City Uniting Church held a memorial service for the residents of Bathurst on March 23, attended by over 140 people.

The Rev. ’Oto Faiva worked closely with the Mayor’s office, Councillor Monica Morse from Bathurst Regional Council and Professor Sharynne McLeod from Charles Sturt University to host the service.

The church was decorated with flags, elaborate gifts from the residents of Ohkuma, and almost 1,000 paper cranes made by the school children and residents of Bathurst. The cranes will be sent to the people of Ohkuma as a sign of hope from Australia.

During the service Mr Faiva gave a message about the need for compassion in the global community, Fudeko Reekie described the 20-year sister city relationship, Bathurst residents spoke about their visits to Ohkuma and Bathurst High Campus students read messages in Japanese to their friends in Ohkuma.

Nan Hunt from Bathurst City Uniting Church wrote a moving prayer that was read by students and Fr Yoshihiro Okawa, who was visiting Bathurst from Nagasaki, gave his prayers in Japanese.

Images of the earthquake and tsunami were shown at the beginning of the service and, at the end, photos of Ohkuma in spring were shown to remind people that it is almost cherry blossom time in Japan and that spring is a time of renewal.

People were invited to light candles to remember the lives affected by the earthquake and tsunami and at the end of the service Mr Faiva presented the Mayor, Councillor Paul Toole, with a large memorial candle.

While the primary focus was on the city of Ohkuma and Japan, thoughts and prayers were also with the people of Christchurch and New Zealand.

At the end of the service $1,088 was raised for the Bathurst-Ohkuma appeal. It was a reflective occasion, providing space for the people of Bathurst to face their deep sense of grief and loss for their friends in Ohkuma, to show support for Japan in this time of crisis, and a practical illustration of Christ’s living water in the community.

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