I Wanted to Die
Among those forced to evacuate was Matsuki Kamoshita, who was eight when the nuclear meltdown happened.
His father, a teacher, remained in Fukushima region to help his students, while Kamoshita and his three-year-old brother moved from place to place with their mother.
“My brother would burrow into his futon and cry. I was bullied… and every day was so painful I wanted to die,” he told Francis, speaking steadily before the crowd.
“Eventually, my father got mentally and physically ill and stopped working. Even so, I still think we are fortunate because we were able to evacuate.”
Japan’s government has been encouraging people who evacuated to return to areas that have now been declared safe after extensive decontamination.
But many fear their former homes are not really safe, and others are reluctant to return to what have in some cases become ghost towns, with few services, particularly for young families.
In his address to survivors, Francis called for renewed efforts to support the victims of the disaster.
“In this way, those who are suffering will be supported and know that they have not been forgotten,” he said.
“We cannot fully convey our suffering,” Kamoshita told Francis, who he hugged after delivering his remarks.
“Pray with us, Holy Father, that we can appreciate each other’s pain and love our neighbours. Pray that even in this cruel reality, we will be given the courage not to turn our eyes away.”