Which religious groups were most successful in raising funds for earthquake victims in the devastated parts of Tohoku? In its Golden Week double issue, Flash (May 8-15) ran an article about the heretofore unreported nexus between last year’s disaster and religion. The most generous donor by far, which mustered some 20,000 volunteers over 130 days — approaching the Self-Defense Forces in equipment and speed — was the 40-year-old “Hinokishin Brigade” of the Tenrikyo Sect, which also donated some ¥920 million. This was followed by Soka Gakkai and Rissho Koseikai each donating over ¥500 million; Seicho no Ie (¥250 million); the Unification Church (¥160 million); the Science of Happiness (¥61 million); and various Buddhist charities (¥340 million).

While not going into specifics, Flash also acknowledged the good works performed by Christian groups, 42 of which are said to have aided in the Tohoku recovery. “In addition to the evacuation centers, churches both in Japan and abroad functioned as bases for the collection and distribution of materials,” says Kazuyoshi Takahashi, director of an NPO that coordinated their efforts. “A small minority may have engaged in coercive attempts to gain converts or to proselytize. It may be stating the obvious, but for the disaster victims, religious affiliation was one of the most important things.”

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