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Caring for men and women who work the boats

TOKYO (AsiaNews): In marking Seafarers Sunday on July 10, Bishop Michael Gorō Matsuura, the president of the Catholic Commission of Japan for Migrants, Refugees and People on the Move, said that today, it is not always the threats of nature that jeopardise their lives.

“Although the sea is becoming even more dangerous, because of nuclear test sites and dumping of radioactive and other waste, most of such cases are hidden without being reported by the media,” the Japanese bishop said in his message for Seafarers Sunday titled, On the Same Ship—with Our Father’s Mercy.

“Seafarers and other people living with the sea, as well as all marine species are threatened and damaged by such human activities,” he continued.

He called on people to be aware of the dangers that seafarers face in their everyday work, saying, “Each and every person in this world is loved by our Father, so we are called to love each other as members of our Father’s family.”

In saying that few seem to care about them, despite the fact that their work is a vital cog in the movement of food, equipment and consumer products that make life possible in the 21st century, he said, “Their work is seldom known.”

Bishop Matsuura added, “On top of that, many people do not pay attention even to the fact that there are many people working on the sea. Perhaps that is because events on the sea are seldom reported, while accidents and terrorists’ attacks on land are covered at any cost.”

He cited the dangers faced by the crew from the United States of America aircraft carrier that anchored off the coast of Fukushima in March 2011 to assist victims of the tsunami and floods after the Great East Japan Earthquake, who served without receiving any information about the radiation spreading toward the sea.

“As a result, almost 2,000 persons were exposed to radiation,” he pointed out.

“The sea is a marvellous gift of God’s creation,” Bishop Matsuura said. “We must not contaminate the sea for the sake of the human ego. All of us receive our daily bread from the sea through people working on the sea.”

Bishop Matsuura concluded his statement by saying, “Since we are all on board the same ship, we should pay equal attention to workers regardless of whether they are on the ground or the sea, and support each other.”

He then called for a special day of prayer on the occasion of the Day for Seafarers, asking people to remember them and their families.

Worldwide, there is a network of the Mission to Seafarers, an ecumenical outreach to those who ply the seas, providing religious services as well as other assistance to those who leave their homes to provide the world with transportation.

They also offer hospitality on shore and lobby for better conditions on the wharves, like the provision of telephones and WiFi to help crews contact their families, as downtime on ships now has become extremely short and shore leave is not always available.

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