Tokyo (AFP) April 29, 2011
The Dalai Lama offered a renewed prayer for disaster-hit Japan Friday, and urged the nation to look to the future.
"What I can do is to pray and offer my sincere condolences to the victims," he said on his first visit to Japan since the nation's biggest recorded earthquake and tsunami ravaged the northern Pacific coastline on March 11.
The disaster left more than 25,000 dead or missing and crippled a nuclear power plant, which has been releasing radioactive materials into the environment and forced the evacuation of tens of thousands living nearby.
"The earthquake was a disaster caused by nature. The tragedy caused by the nuclear plant accident was a problem created by mankind. From this, sufferings and worries arise in hearts", he said.
"What happened, happened. I hope that work will start with eyes firmly set toward the future."
The 75-year-old spiritual leader, who was en route to the United States, visited Japan to say prayers at Gokokuji Temple in Tokyo, where Tibetan monks in orange robes sat alongside Japanese monks.
He announced last month that he wanted to shed his role as political chief of the Tibetan government-in-exile but will retain the more significant role of Tibet's spiritual leader.
The Dalai Lama's prayer came a day after Buddhism's 49th-day rite, held on Thursday along the northeast of Japan in the belief that is the day when departed souls face judgement for their sins.
Some 3,000 followers and spectators came to the Tokyo temple to hear the Dalai Lama, who offered his sympathy and sadness after the 9.0-magnitude earthquake and tsunami plunged Japan into its worst post-War crisis.
"I wanted to visit this nation that faced such a calamity and to be a spiritual comfort, even if this may be a small act," he said.
The Dalai Lama has said that his decision to resign from politics will help the movement to pursue its campaign against Chinese oppression in Tibet after his death. Many Tibetans pleaded with him to change his mind.
On Friday he told reporters that he had decided "to hand over my legitimate political authority, but that does not mean I resign from (being the) Dalai Lama."
He said he had "voluntarily, happily, proudly" ended his political role despite the reservations of "a number" of Tibetans.
"The majority understand my decision as timely and right."
Tibetan exiles this week elected Lobsang Sangay, a 43-year-old Harvard academic, to be their new prime minister.
China on Thursday attacked the Tibetan government-in-exile as "illegal" following the election of the new prime minister.
Beijing continues to brand the Dalai Lama a "splittist" and subjects him to virulent public attacks.
earlier related report
The government asked volunteers to join organised relief programmes and refrain from driving individually to communities destroyed by the earthquake and tsunami in March to ease congestion that could slow restoration work.
While welcoming the free labour given during Golden Week -- a series of national holidays that last until May 8 -- local municipalities are asking for longer-term help that goes beyond the break.
Nearly 8,000 volunteers might work along the northern Pacific coast on each day during the holiday week, more than three times the level until now, the Yomiuri Shimbun estimated.
Sudden rushes of volunteers have already overwhelmed local officials, who have on occasion been unable to immediately find work for out-of-town guests who showed up unexpectedly, local media said.
"Needs change all the time. We hope volunteers would first inquire about the conditions" of specific areas before coming to disaster-hit towns, an official in Rikuzentakata, Iwate prefecture, told the Tokyo Shimbun.
Many municipalities in the northern Pacific coast are minor fishing and farming towns with small administrations, whose abilities were badly hit by the March 11 disaster, which also triggered the Fukushima nuclear crisis.
Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures are accepting new volunteers via organised programmes, but many communities have decided to pass on fresh out-of-town volunteers elsewhere to avoid traffic and administrative chaos.
"The need for volunteers will continue and increase even after Golden Week," Miyagi prefecture said in a statement.
"We ask for your future participation (in volunteer work), if you cannot take part at this time, as we will continue publicising the condition of the area hit by the disaster," it said.
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