FaithWorld

Japanese Buddhist priest discusses spiritual toll of nuclear crisis

(Sokyu Genyu during an interview with Reuters in Tokyo June 4, 2011/Chisa Fujioka)

In Japan, where nature is believed to cleanse spirits, how do people cope when treasured mountains and oceans are tainted by leaks of radiation from a nuclear power plant?

Sokyu Genyu, a Buddhist priest from a temple just 45 km (28 miles) west of the damaged Fukushima Daiichi plant in northeast Japan, is drawing attention to the less visible scars from the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986. As a member of a government panel to come up with a blueprint for rebuilding after the deadly earthquake and tsunami on March 11, Genyu is adding the people’s voice — and a different view — to debate on dealing with the loss of homes, jobs and communities.

“We need to treat the situation in areas affected by radiation separately,” said Genyu, head priest of the Fukujuji Temple and also an award-winning author, told Reuters. “It’s not just about getting compensation.”

His small town of Miharu has welcomed thousands of residents who have evacuated from around the nuclear plant, still leaking radiation after being struck by the tsunami.

Christchurch’s damaged cathedrals, photos before & after NZ earthquake

In addition to all the death and destruction we’ve been reporting in our news reports (see the latest here), the earthquake on Tuesday in Christchurch, New Zealand has caused significant damage to the city’s two cathedrals, especially to their trademark spires.

Here are pictures by Reuters photographer Simon Baker of the damage to the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament (Roman Catholic) and Christchurch Cathedral (Anglican), with pre-quake pictures below them.

Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament: CC cathedral 1

(Rubble outside the Roman Catholic Cathedral of Blessed Sacrament in Christchurch February 24, 2011/Simon Baker)

Christmas of misery for many in calamity-hit Haiti

haiti (Photo: A girl with a Christmas hat in a makeshift camp in Port-au-Prince January 24, 2010/Shannon Stapleton)

Maritza Monfort is singing along to a Christmas carol in Creole on the radio, but the Haitian mother of two is struggling to lift her spirits.  “I sing to ease my pain. If I think too much, I’ll die,” said Monfort, 38, one of over a million Haitians made homeless by a January earthquake that plunged the poor, French-speaking Caribbean nation into the most calamitous year of its history.

With a raging cholera epidemic and election turmoil heaping more death and hardship on top of the quake devastation, Haitians are facing an exceptionally bleak Christmas and New Year marked by the prospect of more suffering and uncertainty.

The January 12 earthquake killed more than a quarter of a million people and snuffed out what had been some encouraging signs of revival in the Western Hemisphere’s poorest economy. Following hard on the quake’s heels like an apocalyptic horseman, the cholera epidemic has killed more than 2,500 Haitians since mid-October and is still claiming victims daily, confronting the United Nations-led international community with one of its toughest ever humanitarian assistance tasks.

Peruvian faithful pay homage to Lord of Miracles

peru (Photo: The “Lord of the Miracles” painting during a procession in Lima October 18, 2010/Enrique Castro-Mendivil)

Thousands of worshippers dressed in purple robes paraded a revered icon through Peru’s capital this week in a tradition dating from 1687 when a mural depicting the same image of Jesus escaped unscathed in a powerful earthquake.

The procession of the Señor de los Milagros (Lord of Miracles), a mural picturing a dark-skinned Christ that is said to have been painted in a shrine by an Angolan slave, has drawn crowds of Roman Catholic devotees for centuries.

The icon is a copy of the mural, which is revered for its powers to cure the sick and protect against tremors in the Andean country. Originally worshipped by Afro-Peruvians, the Señor de los Milagros has become Peru’s best-known icon and has inspired worshipers around the world.

Chanting Haitian voodoo celebrants honor quake dead

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Tents for earthquake survivors in the national stadium in Port-au-Prince March 21, 2010/Eduardo Munoz

Dressed in white, shaking decorated gourd rattles and singing praises to “Olorum Papa” (God the Father), several hundred practitioners of Haiti’s voodoo religion held a public ceremony on Sunday to honor those killed in the January 12 earthquake.

While several Christian ceremonies have been held to mourn the hundreds of thousands of quake dead, this was the first national commemoration by Haiti’s voodoo religion, which has had to defend itself against accusations by some Evangelical preachers that it somehow caused the deadly natural disaster.

Irish clergy abuse victims torn between Dublin monument and Haiti aid

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The Ryan report into child abuse, 20 May 2009/Cathal McNaughton

One of the healing measures suggested when Ireland’s Catholic clerical sex scandals shocked the country last year was a proposal to erect a monument in Dublin to all the youths abused for decades at schools and orphanages run by religious orders that looked the other way.  The idea, proposed by the government’s Ryan report last May, won so much support that half a million euros were earmarked for the project. The government appointed a group to consider what the Irish Times called “the most difficult public art commission in the history of the state.”

It’s just become even more difficult because one group of clerical abuse victims has now said the funds should instead be donated to victims of the Haiti earthquake. The gesture would genuinely mean more to victims of clerical abuse than a piece of stone on O’Connell Street,” the victims’ group Right of Place said last week at a meeting with Prime Minister Brian Cowen. O’Connell Street is Dublin’s main thoroughfare, an ideal place for any memorial.

Others disagree.

Christine Buckley, who works at the Aislinn Centre to support victims, said she recognised the deep suffering of Haitian people. But Ireland, whose government and citizens have already contributed millions in aid to Haiti, should still be able to afford just over 3 euros per each child affected by abuse, she said.

Haiti quake raises fears of child-eating spirits

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Children in a homelss camp in Port-au-Prince, 27 Jan 2010/Eduardo Munoz

The earthquake that shattered Haiti has unleashed fears that child-eating spirits, mythological figures entrenched in Haitian culture, are prowling homeless camps in search of young prey.

The ‘loup-garou,’ which means ‘wolf man,’ is similar to werewolf legends in other parts of the world, but in Haitian folklore it is a person who is possessed by a spirit and can turn into a beast or even a dog, cat, chicken, snake or another animal to suck the blood of babies and young children.

Haitians fear loups-garous in the best of times and even more since a powerful earthquake wrecked the capital of Port-au-Prince two weeks ago, killing as many as 200,000 people and forcing hundreds of thousands more to sleep outside in vast camps or on the streets.

VIDEO: Rescuers recover body of Haiti archbishop killed in quake

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A Mexican rescuer wipes tears as he stands guard with team members beside body of Archbishop Joseph Serge Miot recovered from the ruins of Port-au-Prince cathedral on 19 Jan 2010/Wolfgang Rattay

A Mexican rescue team has recovered the lifeless body of the Roman Catholic Archbishop Joseph Serge Miot of Port-au-Prince from the rubble of his residence a week after the massive earthquake that devastated Haiti. Here’s the Reuters video report:

We ran several pictures of the city’s ruined cathedral here.

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Port-au-Prince RC cathedral in ruins after Haiti earthquake

Our photographers in Haiti have produced many sad images of the widespread death and destruction from Tuesday’s massive earthquake, some of which are collected in a slideshow here.  Following are shots of the Roman Catholic cathedral in Port-au-Prince in ruins.  Among the dead in the quake was Archbishop Joseph Serge Miot, who the Vatican daily L’Osservatore Romano reported was found lifeless “under the rubble of the archbishop’s residence.”

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cathedral 2

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(Credits: Kena Betancur, Kena Betancur, Jorge Silva, Eduardo Munoz, Reuters TV)

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