CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Sunday, 1 September 2019

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The hour the earth shook and the waters swelled

HONG KONG (SE): As the clock ticked down to 1.46pm on March 11, the hour that the earth began to shake last year and the mighty tsunami that swept into the province of Fukushima, Japan, began to swell, Frances Tong and Anglican Pastor Fung Chi Wood, laid a wreath before a large photograph of the stark trunks of two trees standing desolate in the snow, at the opening of a photographic exhibition in Central Plaza, Wanchai.

“I call this photograph The Sentinel,” Tong, the photographer, explained. “They represent the strength of nature that has stood guard over the beauty of God’s creation in Fukushima for eons, feeding the earth and the clear waters that have given life to all living creatures since time immemorial.”

The Hong Kong photographer, with a long lived-out passion for Fukushima, explained that her centrepiece display is a photograph of the rich forest area that characterised the devastated land.

“It is autumn,” she pointed out. “The trees are adorned with the soft, welcoming colours of a warm homecoming. There are so many people in the area that cannot go home because of the radiation spill from the nuclear reactors. We pray today that, one day, they will have the chance to simply go home.”

She called on the 50 or so people gathered in the plush glass and shiny marble plaza to remember the people who have risked their own lives in the Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant to minimise the damage that could have been caused to others and to the natural richness of the land.

And, as the electronic clock flicked to 1.46pm, Tong called for a minute of silent prayer and remembrance for those who died and those who remain to fight for recovery.

This is the third exhibition that Tong has organised of her photographic reflections on Fukushima. The split display on the mezzanine floor of the Central Plaza adds the mellow touch of nature to the stark beauty of human technology.

All her prints are on sale and she explained that the proceeds are already being sent to a non-government organisation in Japan that is assisting the workers in the nuclear plant with their medical bills.

“They are like forgotten heroes,” Tong remarked, “like the voices that cried in the wilderness on this day just one year ago, warning people to run for higher ground without care for their own safety.”

However, the question, “Can the people go home?” has still to be answered. As the forests act like a sponge to absorb the radiation spilled from the giant reactors, it is still not known when people will be able to return to their lush homeland.

Pastor Fung reflected, “We should be thankful for the gift of love so freely given for others by those who risk their lives in the nuclear cleanup. 

“They should be remembered, as the world needs this kind of love, especially at times of disaster. It is a sign of our great need for mutual support.”

He added, “Japan and Hong Kong cannot be separated. We must be one in everything, especially in expressing our love for others.”

Pastor Fung reflected, “It is important and meaningful that we do our best to protect the lives of those who have been put at risk by this nuclear accident.”

The photographic exhibition and prayer service, along with the collecting of donations is being organised by a small group of people who came together at the time of the disaster to drum up awareness and support.

They call themselves Friends of Fukushima. The exhibition will remain in the busy plaza walkway until March 30.

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