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Heart and Soul Podcast Profile

Heart and Soul Podcast

English, Spirituality, 1 season, 277 episodes, 5 days, 7 hours, 25 minutes
Personal approaches to spirituality from around the world.
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Sikhism’s lost song

In the heyday of the Sikh Empire, Kirtan - Sikh hymns - were performed using stringed instruments such as the sarangi, rabab and taus. The rich, complex tones these instruments create are said to evoke a deeper connection to Waheguru (God). But in the late 19th Century, these traditional instruments were replaced by European imports like the harmonium. Now a new generation of diaspora Sikhs is painstakingly rebuilding that musical heritage - restoring scores and gathering to teach and learn traditional instruments. In 2022, the Akal Takht, the highest temporal authority for Sikhs, signalled a revival of stringed instruments in the Golden Temple, the holiest Sikh shrine. But can they attract and train enough musicians to put strings back at the heart of Sikh worship? Monika Plaha meets one these musical pioneers, Harjinder Singh Lallie, and finds out how his beliefs fuel his work and how his music shapes his faith. Producer: Rachel Briggs and Ajai Singh Presenter: Monika Plaha Editor: Helen Grady Production co-ordinator: Mica Nepomuceno Come with us! Heart and Soul is moving and we would love it if you can join us. You can now find all our episodes on The Documentary, the home of original, global storytelling, from the BBC World Service. Search for The Documentary, wherever you found this podcast, and don’t forget to subscribe or follow.
4/14/202327 minutes, 9 seconds
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Clergy in cartel land

Mexico has become the most dangerous country in the world to be a Catholic priest. In the past 15 years, 50 were killed in narco-related violence. And the young men who enter the priesthood in the region of western Mexico known as Tierra Caliente, meaning "hot land", are at particular risk. They will have to work in drug cartel-controlled communities, may have gang leaders or members in their congregations and will struggle with the ethical and theological dilemmas of publicly condemning these men’s actions at the risk of being murdered for speaking out. Even baptisms or delivering communion or receiving donations can prove extremely threatening: to refuse them any of the most sacred rituals of the Church is to defy the cartels. And few live to tell the tale having refused to bend to the cartels’ demands. The BBC’s Mexico Correspondent, Will Grant travels to Tierra Caliente to meet a group of seminarians. In recent years, their director was attacked and almost killed. Members of a drug cartel entered their seminary, dragged off one of their colleagues and murdered him in the surrounding countryside. And the grave to one of their instructors is nestled by the chapel. All reminders, if any were needed, that these young men are about to join the world’s most dangerous priesthood. How are they prepared? Do they appreciate just what they are letting themselves in for? And how will they tackle the thorny ethical and spiritual questions which lie ahead as priests? Come with us! Heart and Soul is moving and we would love it if you can join us. You can now find all our episodes on The Documentary, the home of original, global storytelling, from the BBC World Service. Search for The Documentary, wherever you found this podcast, and don’t forget to subscribe or follow.
4/7/202327 minutes, 6 seconds
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Purity to nudity

Gwen was brought up as a strict evangelical Christian. She was taught that women needed to control the way they dressed and acted to control the behaviour of men. When she was sexually abused, she believed it was her fault. But when she first stepped into a nudist community, she felt free. She was naked, with other naked people, and her nakedness was not making other people molest her. She learnt that her body was not something she had to hide. The BBC’s Josie Le Vay visits Gwen at her home in a nudist community in Florida, USA, as she reconciles with the harm purity culture has caused herself, and those she taught it to. We meet Gwen’s neighbour, Michael, a retired chaplain and pastor, who runs nude bible reading sessions from his home and attends the nearby Garden of Eden church, which celebrates the ‘joy and innocence of Christian naturism’. And we hear how those who practise many of the evangelical teachings Gwen grew up with respond to her new nudist lifestyle; and her Christian friends who believe the Bible justifies their way of life. Producer: Michael Gallagher Presenter: Josie Le Vay Editor: Helen Grady Production co-ordinator: Mica Nepomuceno Come with us! Heart and Soul is moving and we would love it if you can join us. You can now find all our episodes on The Documentary, the home of original, global storytelling, from the BBC World Service. Search for The Documentary, wherever you found this podcast, and don’t forget to subscribe or follow.
3/31/202327 minutes, 4 seconds
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My hijab or my sport

It took Salimata Sylla three hours to get to the away fixture she was due to play with her basketball team mates from the Parisian suburb of Aubervilliers. But it was only a few minutes before the match started that she learned she was going to sit the game out on the bench. Despite playing for more than 10 years in the French Championship, the federation that controls her sport decided to apply the rule that forbids female basketball players from wearing the hijab. Her coach describes her as the backbone of the team and an ambassador for the sport. She has been a face of basketball for many big brands on social media. And the hijab she wears is sold by mainstream sportswear manufacturers. Salimata’s ban is the latest in country where the right to wear a hijab has long divided opinion. But in her case, it raises an interesting dilemma for France. While domestic sporting federations enforce their ban on the hijab, their international counterparts have no such ban in place. So what will happen, Salimata wonders, when the Olympics come to Paris next year? Reporter Claire Jones goes to Paris to meet Salimata to find out how she can resolve her wish to express her Muslim faith by wearing a hijab with her desire to play the sport she loves. Presenter: Claire Jones Producer: Helen Lee and Rob Cave Production co-ordinator: Mica Nepomuceno
3/24/202326 minutes, 28 seconds
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An instrument speaking to the infinite

The organ has always been a vehicle for truly cosmic ideas - for atheists and believers alike. Acclaimed Latvian organist Iveta Apkalna explores the idea that the instrument is simply a vehicle for Christian worship digging deeper into how the organ conveys ideas of the infinite and the microscopic, the existential and the personal, of celebration, grief and joy. Presenter: Iveta Apkalna Producer: Steven Rajam An Overcoat Media production for BBC World Service (Photo: Pipe organ by Nikolaus Moll in the Innsbruck Cathedral, also known as the Cathedral of St. James in Innsbruck, Austria. Credit: Getty Images)
3/17/202327 minutes, 46 seconds
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Two Rabbis, worlds apart in Israel

When we think of division in the Middle East, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict normally comes straight to mind. But there’s a new and dangerous tension in Israel – between its own Jewish people. The country now has its most right-wing government for decades, with controversial figures who’ve advocated violence and divisive policies. There’s also a plan to change the judicial system to give Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and a small number of government figures vast control. Its critics say Israel is in danger of becoming a ‘democratic dictatorship’. This political shift is now pitting ordinary Israeli Jews against each other. The ultra-orthodox Haredim and their conservative supporters are at odds with more liberal elements of society. Former Defence Minister Benny Gantz – a powerful figure in the former government – has even raised the spectre of a civil war in Israel, telling the new politicians that they’ll be responsible if a new conflict breaks out. As efforts are made to maintain peace and hold the country together, the BBC’s Middle East Correspondent Yolande Knell meets two rabbis who are odds with one another in the heart of Jerusalem. Surrounded by the religious iconography that should symbolise the links between them, she explores why the two ends of the spectrum now find themselves so far apart. And she tries to persuade them to come together over a meal to find out if there’s any way to bridge the gaping political and theological differences in their thinking. But will they be willing to meet? Presenter: Yolande Knell Producer: Rajeev Gupta Editor: Helen Grady Production Coordinator: Mica Nepomuceno
3/15/202326 minutes, 29 seconds
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Coming out of the Ifá closet

Almost 10 years ago, Peter MacJob’s life changed forever. Born and raised a devout Christian like so many of his fellow Nigerians, he fell out of love with the Church and discovered the traditional Yoruba religion of his ancestors. Other Africans appear to be doing the same thing, both on the continent and throughout the diaspora. But as Peter has found, it is not always easy to convert: Ifá, or Isese, involves effigies, divination, and making offerings to a range of deities, up to and including animal sacrifice. Those not initiated into the faith often see it as superstitious and even sinister. Devotees say that outsiders misunderstand, and complain that Ifá is pejoratively depicted as devil worship. It is perhaps little wonder that after Peter adopted Ifá, he chose not to tell his family about it. But now he has decided it is time to come clean, taking a trip back to Nigeria to confront childhood friends and loved ones, in the hope that they will give their blessing. Presenter: Peter MacJob Producer: Michael Gallagher Strand producer: Rajeev Gupta Production co-ordinator: Mica Nepomuceno Editor: Helen Grady
3/2/202326 minutes, 28 seconds
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Stripped of my spirituality

Aged four, Mary was playing in her parents’ front yard, when she was grabbed by “the government people” and taken to a Catholic boarding school to be turned into a Christian. She’s just one of thousands of Native Americans who were forcibly removed from their homes and put into boarding schools from the 1800s right up to the 1970s. According to a US government report, the purpose of these schools was to strip indigenous people of their spiritual beliefs, culture and land. A government investigation also found that physical, emotional and sexual abuse was “rampant”. Indigenous Americans’ spiritual beliefs are now experiencing a renaissance, but is this revival enough to enable Mary and her friends heal from a childhood of trauma in America’s residential schools? Presenter: Leana Hosea Producer: Leana Hosea with Rajeev Gupta Production co-ordinator: Nancy Bennie Editor: Helen Grady
2/17/202326 minutes, 29 seconds
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The cost of being an atheist in Nigeria

When Mubarak Bala posts criticism of Islam on social media, it sparks a landmark legal case and leaves him facing 24 years in jail. Raised in a Muslim family, Mubarak is the son of an Islamic scholar in the religiously conservative Kano state. But in 2014, Mubarak renounces Islam and later becomes president of Nigeria’s Humanist Association, gaining a reputation as an outspoken critic of religion. In 2020, a group of Muslim lawyers call for him to be tried for offences related to blasphemy over social media posts which they say insult the Prophet Muhammad and the religion of Islam. With access to Mubarak’s wife and lawyers, the BBC’s Yemisi Adegoke follows his case through the Nigerian court system, finding out what it tells us about freedom of belief in a country where religious tensions run deep. She talks to other Nigerian atheists as they follow Mubarak’s case and wrestle with the challenges of being open about their beliefs in a deeply religious society. Presenter: Yemisi Adegoke Producers: Valeria Cardi and John Offord Production co-ordinator: Mica Nepomuceno Editor: Helen Grady (Photo: Mubarak Bala speaking at Kaduna Book and Arts Festival in 2018, still from the film The Cost of Being an Atheist)
2/10/202326 minutes, 25 seconds
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The Right Thing: Framed by my brother

In July 2000 Floyd Bledsoe was convicted of the murder of his 14-year-old sister-in-law in the small Kansas town of Oskaloosa. His older brother Tom had originally confessed to the killing, but later changed his story, accusing Floyd of the crime. A committed Christian, Floyd spent the next 15 years fighting his conviction, and wrestling with the Bible’s teaching to forgive those who have done us wrong. Could he forgive Tom for what he had done? Or his parents, who had sided with one son over the other? Mike Wooldridge speaks to Floyd about his ordeal and about his struggle to do the right thing by his faith. Mike also hears from a volunteer prison chaplain who helped Floyd resolve his dilemma, and from a family friend who stuck by Floyd when others in his own church turned their backs on him. Producer: Mike Lanchin A CTVC production for the BBC World Service Archive material courtesy of the Lawrence (Kan.) Journal-World (Photo: ​Floyd Bledsoe, 2015. Credit: Midwest Innocence Project)
2/3/202327 minutes, 18 seconds
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The Right Thing: Opposing sexual violence as a weapon of war

**Contains graphic details of sexual violence against women and children** As a young boy, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Denis Mukwege witnessed his father, a Pentecostal pastor, praying for a sick child. It made him want to help people who suffer – not as a pastor, despite his own Christian faith, but as a doctor. Fast forward to 1999, and Denis Mukwege founded Panzi hospital in Bukavu, a city in the Democratic Republic of Congo, near the Rwandan border. There, over the last 20 years, he has treated tens of thousands of women with gynaecological trauma, caused by the extreme sexual violence which has become a weapon of war in this volatile part of the world. Rich in coveted mineral resources, the area is the scene of a large-scale conflict involving countless armed rebel groups. But Dr Mukwege was not just helping women; he was also speaking out against the cruelty of this conflict. This led to several attempts on his life. Fearing for his family, Denis Mukwege went into exile, but the women who saw him as their only hope launched a big campaign to persuade him to return. Mike Wooldridge talks to Denis Mukwege about his life’s work and how his Christian faith has motivated him to disregard his own safety and bring new hope to women who, without his help, would be looking ahead to a life of ostracism and pain. If you have been affected by sexual abuse or violence, details of help and support in the UK is available at Producer: Lore Wolfson Windemuth A CTVC production for the BBC World Service (Photo: Dr Mukwege. Credit: Alexis Huguet/Panzi Foundation)
1/27/202327 minutes, 58 seconds
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The Viking priest

The Ásatrú faith is Iceland's fastest growing religion. Drawing on Norse mythology, it is a pagan faith open to all. But in recent years it has been hijacked by white supremacists in other countries. We follow High Priest, Hilmar Hilmarsson, as he attempts to tackle this critical challenge and protect his faith’s true origins. When white supremacists marched through Charlottesville in 2017, Hilmar looked on from Reykjavik. It was not just their racist message that worried him. It was the fact their banners bore the symbols of his faith such as Thor's hammer. Ásatrú, according to Hilmar, emphasises respect and tolerance, reviving polytheistic traditions and the worship of gods and goddesses from Iceland’s pre-Christian past. Thanks to his position and the fact he has become so well respected both inside and beyond Iceland, Hilmar has an authority recognised by the Icelandic state to conduct weddings and funerals and lead the rituals or "blots" that the group practise to mark the passing year - a 21st Century reimagining of how pre-Christian Norse people celebrated their seasons. We join him as the community gather around him and prepare for the welcoming of the winter blot. But Hilmar has also received disturbing messages and even death threats from far- right pagans in the US, Germany and Canada who do not agree with his inclusive belief system and his support for gay marriage and LGBTQ rights. We follow him as he looks forward to the opening of the group’s first temple while under pressure to distance the religion from white supremacy. Producer: Sarah Cuddon A Falling Tree production for BBC World Service (Photo: High Priest Hilmar Hilmarsson. Credit: Gavin Haines)
1/20/202327 minutes, 32 seconds
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The battle for souls in Nepal

Nepal has one of fastest growing Christian communities in the world. Helping to drive the growth are South Korean missionaries like Pang Chang-in and his wife Lee Jeong-hee. The couple’s work spreading the word of Jesus is risky. Those found guilty of converting people face up to five years in jail in Nepal. The BBC’s Asia editor Rebecca Henschke and Korean journalist Kevin Kim follow the couple as they open new churches and teach the next generation of Nepali Christian leaders. This is a rare insight into an organised and increasingly controversial Korean mission, spreading the Christian faith high in the Himalayans. Presented by: Rebecca Henschke Produced with: Kevin Kim, Rajan Parajuli, Rama Parajuli and Rajeev Gupta (Photo: Pang and his wife)
1/13/202326 minutes, 28 seconds
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Pope Benedict XVI: A life and legacy

In this special programme to mark the death of Pope Benedict XVI, Colm Flynn explores the life story of the gentle German academic who became the spiritual leader of 1.3 billion Catholics all over the world. The 95-year old Pope Emeritus died at the Vatican on New Year’s Eve 2022. He will perhaps be best remembered as the first Pope to retire in 600 years. But his life and legacy is much more complicated and varied, with a papacy filled with both majestic spiritual moments and embarrassing and hurtful blunders. Benedict led the Catholic Church for fewer than eight years but is considered by many to be one of the most influential religious leaders of modern times. Born Joseph Ratzinger in rural Bavaria, he has a deeply religious upbringing and trained for the priesthood along with his brother. Before becoming a bishop, he was a professor of theology, teaching in several universities. He embraced the spirit of change that blew through the Catholic Church in the 1960s, gaining a reputation as a progressive at the Second Vatican Council. But in later life, as head of the Catholic Church’s doctrinal watchdog, he defended Catholic teaching fearlessly, even earning the nickname “God’s Rottweiler”. As Pope, Benedict spoke out against what he called "the dictatorship of relativism", and produced deeply moving spiritual writings, drawing many young people to the Catholic faith. His papal visits always draw huge crowds and those who met him describe a gentle, kind and self-effacing man. His Papacy was overshadowed by the breaking scandals of decades of sexual abuse in the Church. And while Pope Benedict introduced ground-breaking reforms to tackle abuse, campaigners for survivors say he failed to deal with hundreds of cases. Presenter/producer: Colm Flynn Editor: Helen Grady Image: Pope Benedict XVI, pictured in 2020 (Credit: Leon Neal/PA)
1/9/202326 minutes, 29 seconds
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Thich Nhat Hanh’s censored legacy

Thich Nhat Hanh is known as the father of mindfulness. The Vietnamese monk shared Buddhist teaching with the world, and launched a global spiritual movement. But a year on from his death, Thich Nhat Hanh remains a controversial figure in his home country of Vietnam. During his lifetime, he built Plum Village monasteries and meditation centres across the globe – but he couldn’t do it in his home country. His anti-war activism angered the authorities in south Vietnam, and he spent most of his life in exile. Even today, Plum Village is still not allowed to establish a formal presence in Vietnam. To find out about his life and the enduring appeal of his writings, Grace Tsoi goes to Thailand, where many of Thich Nhat Hanh’s Vietnamese followers have gathered to keep his teachings alive. As social media introduces a new generation to the Zen master, will the Vietnamese government finally embrace his full legacy? Presenter: Grace Tsoi Producers: Grace Tsoi and Tran Vo Editors: Helen Grady and Giang Nguyen
1/2/202326 minutes, 29 seconds
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Christmas with the cooking priest

Fr Leo Patalinghug is not your typical priest. In one hand he holds a cross, in the other a cooking spatula. With his own international TV show, YouTube channel and cookbooks, this apron-wearing minister is on a mission – to share his faith through food. Growing up on an island in the Philippines, where money was tight, Leo and his family sometimes struggled to put food on the table. It was after moving to the United States that they got a start in life and, from a young age, Leo was always passionate about cooking. But his other great passion in life was his Catholic faith. And when he finally made the decision to enter religious life and become a priest, he was determined to use cooking to tell people about Christ. As he puts it: “I want to change hearts and minds by going through your stomach.” Presenter Colm Flynn travels to Baltimore in the US to meet Fr Leo in his kitchen and at the food van where he and a team of volunteers feed the homeless of their hometown. He explains how he believes Jesus was a foodie, and how a good meal, made with love, can nourish our souls as well as our bodies.
12/26/202226 minutes, 29 seconds
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The Iran protests

Iran has seen months of protests following the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini who was detained by the country's ‘morality police’ (Gasht-e Ershad) on 16 September, three days after her arrest in Tehran. As women-led protests intensify, with calls for freedom against strict dress codes and mandatory hijab, and demands for regime change, Heart and Soul brings together three Iranian women from different walks of life. The BBC’s Faranak Amidi leads the conversation which explores religion, personal faith and the struggle for independence from state-controls on religious practices. Image: An Iranian flag (Credit: Jasmin Merdan/Getty Images)
12/19/202226 minutes, 28 seconds
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Poland's Jews: Caught between, never home

For centuries, Poland was home to millions of Jews in the heart of Europe. Decades after the horrors of the Holocaust, questions of lost identity have arisen. What is it like to be a third-generation Jew in present-day Poland? We meet Małgorzata, who was born into a Jewish family in the late 1980s. She says being a Jew in Poland today means people think you are neither truly Jewish, nor Polish. She is just one of millions of third-generation Jewish people across Central Europe attempting to make sense of an identity that cannot be changed, reversed or erased. Producer: Bartosz Panek Presenter: John Beauchamp A Free Range and Overcoat Media Co-production for BBC World Service (Photo: Małgorzata, with kind permission)
12/9/202227 minutes, 57 seconds
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Arizona’s desert crosses

Alvaro Enciso is an artist. He arrived in the US from Colombia in the 1960s and now lives in Tucson, Arizona on the edge of the unforgiving Sonoran Desert. If you are a migrant, this is one of the deadliest places to journey across the border from Mexico into the United States. Many of those who begin that lengthy walk will not make it – thousands have died in the attempt. Alvaro Enciso feels a very human connection to those lives lost. So every Tuesday, he does something extraordinary. Together with a group of volunteers, Alvaro motors off-road through the dust and the cacti, and plants painted, wooden crosses in the precise locations where Undocumented Border Crossers have taken their last breaths. For Heart and Soul, Linda Pressly travels into the Sonoran Desert with Alvaro Enciso and his team. Producer & presenter: Linda Pressly Producer in Arizona: Tim Mansel (Photo: Alvaro Enciso with one of his crosses. Credit: Tim Mansel)
12/2/202226 minutes, 29 seconds
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Turtle Island and the Black Snake

Native American Anishinaabe people have been living around the Great Lakes since time immemorial, following spiritual beliefs centred around the water. But they say their way of life is being threatened by an oil pipeline sitting on the bed of the Straits of Mackinac, a volatile waterway connecting two of the Great Lakes, Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. The Line 5 pipeline has been there for 69 years, but only came to public attention after a major oil spill in Michigan led to its discovery. The company that owns the pipeline insist it is safe. But its location is central to the Anishinaabe people’s creation story, positioned as it is in the heart of North America, or Turtle Island as the Anishinaabe call it. They believe they have a sacred oath with The Creator to protect the Great Lakes, which contain a fifth of the world’s fresh surface water. The BBC’s Leana Hosea meets some of the tribes affected in their Michigan reservations and follows their fight to protect their faith and traditions in modern America. Photo Credit: Gerardo Reyes
11/25/202228 minutes, 12 seconds
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One scoop or two

Artist Annie Nicholson's life and work have been shaped by loss after her family were killed in a helicopter crash in New York City in 2011. The grief was overwhelming, but slowly she found a way to live her creative practise. During the pandemic, as people around the world were coming to terms with their own losses, Annie bought an old ice cream van and set off - serving up mint choc chip and vanilla scoops- and inviting people to talk about big uncomfortable emotions. Now she is taking the project to New York, to start new conversations over ice cream, and where she will mark the anniversary of her family's death, in this documentary about grief, but above all, survival. (Photo: Annie Nicholson standing in front of her repurposed ice cream van. Credit: Tara Darby)
11/18/202227 minutes, 55 seconds
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Dying in Varanasi

Varanasi is one of the oldest continually inhabited cities in the world and considered the spiritual capital of India. While also holy to Buddhists, Jains and many other sects, it is the most sacred city in Hinduism. Said to have been founded by Lord Shiva, for centuries Hindus have made the pilgrimage from all over the world to the banks of the Ganges River. For many of these pilgrims, they know this will be their last mortal journey. In Hindu tradition it is said that to die in Varanasi, one may attain Moksha – an end to the continual cycle of rebirth, and a place in paradise. These are the stories of those intimately involved in the unique culture of spirituality, death and funerals in the city. We hear from the manager of Mukti Bhawan, one of the so-called Death Hotels which host pilgrims in their final days on earth, alongside personal family accounts of those who have chosen this path and the stories of those who jobs are to cremate the roughly 100 bodies per day at the ancient Burning Ghats, before their remains enter the holy river to pass into the afterlife. (Photo: Panoramic view across the holy river Ganges on Munshi Ghat in the suburb of Godowlia. Credit: Frank Bienewald/Getty Images)
11/11/202227 minutes, 50 seconds
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Me, my autism and cults

By the time Richard Turner was in his mid-30s, he’d given away nearly all of his money to a church. Everything he held dear had been stripped bare by a religious community in the UK which claimed to have his best interests at heart. It took him years to piece together how this could have happened. It was only in recovery that he was diagnosed with autism, which he believes made him more susceptible to coercive control by a group he now regards as a cult. For Heart and Soul, Richard takes us on his journey of self-discovery, sharing his faith experiences with other ‘cult survivors’, including one US man with Asperger’s Syndrome who has spent most of his adult life ‘cult-hopping’. How common are these extraordinary stories across the world? With very little academic research available, Richard is part of a growing movement working to understand the link between neurodivergence and cults. (Image: Group Of People Against Blurred Background. Credit: Getty Images / Emmanuel Lavigne / EyeEm)
11/4/202226 minutes, 28 seconds
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Diwali in Leicester

The English city of Leicester hosts the largest Diwali celebrations outside India. More than 40,000 people gather every year to see the Diwali lights switch on in Belgrave Road. People of all faiths and none attend, but for Leicester’s Hindus, the festivities are an important way of practising their faith and honouring their culture. In Hinduism, Diwali celebrates Lord Rama’s victory over the demon Ravana and Hindus observe it through prayer and by lighting up their houses with clay pot lamps. Home to thousands of Hindus who migrated from India and East Africa, Leicester is often held up as a shining example of how different religious communities can live together in harmony. But in recent weeks, tensions between the city’s well-established Hindu and Muslim population have erupted into street violence. Hindu temples were attacked while Muslims say right wing Hindu nationalism is seeping into the city from abroad. Some Hindus fear they won’t be able to celebrate Diwali in the same way this year. So could Leicester’s huge festivities be thrown off course? Rajeev Gupta goes to Leicester to find out, uncovering an intense debate among the city’s Hindus about how to respond to inter-religious tensions and how best to express their faith. A new generation wants to express and defend their beliefs more confidently than the first generations who arrived in the city. Others argue that identity politics are pulling people away from true Hindu values. Rajeev finds out what scripture has to say about social cohesion and how believers are drawing on it to help restore peace to the vibrant city.
10/21/202226 minutes, 28 seconds
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From riches to religion

Patrick van der Vorst was a tech multi-millionaire, and had been the head auctioneer at the world famous Sotheby's auction house in London selling tens of millions of pounds worth of art including the contents of Elton John's house. Then he went through what he called "a seismic change" in his life. Turning his back on money, fame and success to pursue something he feels is deeper and more meaningful. "I gave up the home I live in, the bed I sleep in, the food I eat. I had to give up my dog. I had to go back to studying again!'. Originally from Belgium where he practised law, he then moved to the UK and pursued life as an entrepreneur. It was during his time dealing with art, that he felt drawn to Christian art and he started thinking about life's bigger questions. Eventually he shocked his friends and colleagues when he announced that he would be giving up business and devoting his life to the priesthood. And so Patrick left for the simplicity of the seminary in Rome. In this Heart and Soul on the BBC World Service we'll meet Patrick in Rome to hear his story, and how he wants to start contemporary Christian art tours in Rome after he's ordained as a priest.
10/14/202226 minutes, 29 seconds
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God and hip-hop

Christianity and Hip Hop have a long and complex relationship. From Kanye’s Jesus Walks to the development of Christian Hip Hop, artists rapping about their faith has caused controversy in a genre that’s known for its violent oversexualised lyrics. But who’s rapping about God right now and is anyone claiming the title of Christian rapper? Swarzy Macaly, a BBC 1Xtra presenter, is a Christian who works within the mainstream music world, playing secular music. She loves it when she hears people share their faith in their music, like the pioneers of Christian Hip Hop like Lecrae and Guvna B did. But in recent years, artists beyond the Christian Hip Hop world have been releasing ‘gospel’ filled music like Kanye West and Stormzy, blurring the lines between religious and secular music. Swarzy wants to know if that’s having an impact on the music Christian artists make, and if they feel pressure to dilute explicit faith messages in their songs to reach a wider audience. Is the label ‘Christian rapper’ too restrictive for artists who want their music to go further than the church? To find out more, Swarzy meets Still Shadey and Jo Joey, young Christian rappers making popular drill music with a religious message; Deyah and Happi who’ve moved beyond the ‘Christian’ artist label, and Limoblaze the artist behind viral TikTok hit Jireh, to hear what it’s like producing music with a Christian message, and how receptive the music industry is to the growing trend of faith filled music. Produced by Miriam Williamson for the BBC World Service (Image Credit: Chinyere Anosike)
9/30/202226 minutes, 29 seconds
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Spiritualism and the soul

Twenty-one-year-old journalism graduate, Saskia Masaun has been attending meditation, mediumship and healing classes at the Spiritualists National Union (SNU) Church in Wolverhampton, UK, since she was 16, alongside her spiritualist mother. Saskia explains how her faith, which includes connecting with the spirit world through mediums and a seven principle philosophy described as a ‘guideline for life’, is helping her navigate her journey as she sets out on her career. She speaks to Spiritualist leaders and attends the medium’s training college, where recruits are taught the art of communicating with the dead. She talks to Karin Huber, a full time medium in Germany, and Asha, a healer who was brought up as a Hindu in the British multicultural city where they live. From its beginnings, founded in the 1840s in the US, spiritualism has established itself in the UK through its teachings on mediumship, healing and a philosophy which centres the soul through developing self-awareness. Presenter: Saskia Masaun Producer: Dylan Hayward and Nina Robinson
9/23/202226 minutes, 29 seconds
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Green Islam

There are hundreds of verses in the Quran calling on Muslims to protect the environment. Islam teaches that everyone is a custodian of nature and should treat the natural environment with respect and care. Sustainability has been part of the faith from the beginning. How are ordinary Muslims around the globe responding to that call? Reporter Zubeida Malik hears about the experiences of a local imam from Indonesia trying to persuade his community to help redress the effects of climate change and she looks at how religious leaders in Zanzibar successfully persuaded fishermen to change their age-old customs. Zubeida also visits Europe’s first eco-Mosque in Cambridge, England, a beacon of modern Islamic environmentalism, and eavesdrops on British Muslim schoolgirls learning to interpret their faith and the natural world. (Photo: View of the famous Cambridge Central Mosque design. Credit: Edward Crawford/Getty Images)
8/26/202227 minutes, 50 seconds
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Hindus, hate and hashtags

Vishva Samani meets young Hindus in the diaspora who believe their faith is being misunderstood and who speak out against what they say is ‘Hinduphobia’. While some academics claim the term is used to silence dissent, online hate directed towards the Hindu community has increased.
8/19/202227 minutes, 22 seconds
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The last Afghan Sikhs

Once Afghanistan’s Sikh population numbered more than 100,000 in the 1970's. Today, it’s estimated around only 100 Sikhs remain, following the return to Taliban rule. The BBC’s Kawoon Khamoosh speaks to those who have been forced to leave in recent years. Producer: Nina Robinson
8/12/202226 minutes, 29 seconds
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Qawwali: Music of the soul

Raees Khan explores the history, influence and enduring legacy of Qawwali music, both within, as well as outside of the Islamic World. From its earliest origins in the writings of Sufi Saints, to its spread throughout South Asia we look at how the mystical and devotional artform spread throughout the Indian Sub-continent and attracted millions to the religion of Islam. A deeply personal journey, Raees reminisces about his first introduction to Qawwali as a young boy and how the captivating voice of one man, Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, changed him forever. Along the way, we meet Tahir Qawaal, the lead vocalist in an all-Caucasian Qawwali group who spent years in Pakistan and India learning from the true masters. Tahseen Sakina explains how she feels she has been accepted as one of the only female qawaals and Abi Sampa, Rushil and Amrit Dhuffer, the members of The Orchestral Qawwali Project, tell us about introducing qawwali to a whole new audience. Presenter: Raees Khan Producer: Talat-Farooq Awan Executive Producer: Rajeev Gupta (Photo: Group Fana Fi Allah and their lead singer Tahir Qawwal performing. Credit: Tahir Qawwal)
8/12/202226 minutes, 29 seconds
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The bible, black women and Brazil

Evangelical Christian women of colour were the kingmakers in Brazil’s last presidential election. In May, a corruption conviction that barred the former left wing President from running was quashed on a technicality. And the stage is now set for an epic election showdown where experts say it’s women of colour who will have the deciding vote. But after four years in power, will they turn a blind eye to Jair Bolsonaro’s comments that some consider misogynistic and racist? In ‘The Bible, Black women and Brazil’, Lebo Diseko travels to Brazil for Heart and Soul from the BBC World Service, to find out if their vote may deliver the President his second victory.
8/5/202226 minutes, 29 seconds
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The Deadly Sacrifice at Hawkes Bay

In February 1983, a group of 42 Shia devotees left a quiet village in the Chakwal district of Pakistan and embarked on an epic journey to Karbala in Iraq. This was no ordinary pilgrimage but had been ordained by Mahdi, the last spiritual leader or Imam of Shia faith. His instructions were communicated to the faithful in miraculous messages channeled through an 18 year old woman. The caravan left in two trucks on the 1300 kilometre journey to the port city of Karachi where they were to cross the Arabian Sea for Iraq. What happened next is a story of extreme sacrifice in the name of the Shia Islamic faith and would result in the deaths of 18 men, women and children. In this programme reporter Shumaila Jaffery returns to their village before she travels to Hawkes Bay to discover what really happened on that moonlit night four decades ago. She tracks down survivors to explore if what the sacrifice of the devoted may tell us about Shia Islam today, asks; ‘could something like this ever happen again’?
7/29/202226 minutes, 28 seconds
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How do I explain this?

Writer and poet Nikita Gill and sitar virtuoso and composer Anoushka Shankar are friends and collaborators whose life stories share many parallels. In this programme, recorded sitting with tea and doughnuts on the floor of a child’s bedroom, they share an intimate conversation about a moment of spiritual awakening. Nikita reflects on the idea that awakenings or epiphanies often follow a challenging or traumatic phase of life. She recalls a series of personal experiences which compelled her to take a train north and walk all through the night and into dawn. She describes how she returned from this experience a changed person. Anoushka describes how a build up of stressful experiences pushed her to a breaking point which also became a spiritual calling. Together the women reflect on the idea that these moments are a profound part of the story arc of our lives, forcing us to confront our deepest values and setting us on a new path. They share how the experience led to new wisdoms and spiritual practices. Prodiucer: Sarah Cuddon ​A Falling Tree production for BBC World Service (Photo: Anoushka Shankar (L). Credit: Laura Lewis. (R) Nikita Gill. Credit: Peace Ofure)
7/22/202227 minutes, 39 seconds
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Conversion Norway-style

In 2007 Christian and Muslim leaders in Norway controversially recognised for the first time in modern history, the right to convert between the two faiths without harassment or impediment. They also called for all missionary work to be conducted “without force or manipulation". The “Joint declaration on the freedom of religion and the right to conversion” was welcomed as an important contribution to inter-faith dialogue in the Scandinavian nation. But it was also seen by some Muslims as recognizing the right to abandon Islam, which is considered apostasy and punishable as a criminal offense in many Muslim countries. It was similarly criticised by some of Norway’s evangelical churches, which saw it as disavowing their central missionary role. Reporter Maddy Savage travels to Norway to hear the stories of some of those who’ve chosen to convert from one of the two faiths to the other; and to ask whether the joint declaration played any role in their life changing decisions.
7/15/202227 minutes, 9 seconds
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No country for Azov Greeks

Fleeing from the war-torn Mariupol in eastern Ukraine, Afina Khadzynova is trying to reconnect to her Greek roots in the Mediterranean island of Cyprus. The ethnic Greek community has been in Mariupol since the 18th Century. Up until February of this year the city's Greeks had a vibrant cultural life, celebrating their language, traditions and religious rites, brutally cut short by the Russian invasion. Within weeks traditional Greek settlements were levelled and the city itself was besieged, leaving civilians to shelter in their basements without food, water, heat or mobile connection. Afina and her mother Olympiada managed to escape after two weeks under siege, yet her brother and nieces still remain in the occupied city. She began communicating with reporter Natalia Golysheva Deis, sending voice notes that reflect her life in the city, and her transformation into a refugee. A self-proclaimed non-believer, when the war came she started to pray to an old Greek icon to shield her from shelling. Now in Cyprus, she meets Natalia Deis around orthodox Easter as she settles into her new life away from her beloved home. Producer/presnter: Natalia Golysheva Deis A Whistledown production for BBC World Service Title song "Iнша Весна"/Another Spring, courtesy of Vitaly Kozlovsky and team (Photo: Azov Greeks' cultural festival Megha Yurty in Mariupol, 2021. Credit: Mariupol Rada)
7/8/202227 minutes, 25 seconds
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Faith in science

CERN, in Geneva, is the most complex scientific experiment in the world. It has just restarted operating after a break, and is celebrating the 10th anniversary of detecting the Higgs Boson, a particle that is the final piece in the jigsaw of the standard model of physics. It explains how particles acquire mass. Without mass, there would be no matter and we wouldn’t be here. The Large Hadron Collider at CERN was designed to find this Higgs boson, and smashes particles at almost the speed of light in a tunnel deep underground to discover new particles. It attempts to explain how the Big Bang worked. We go underground to visit one of the enormous detectors at the famous Large Hadron Collider and talk to young scientists from different parts of all the world who, despite looking for scientific answers to how the universe began, still believe devoutly in a creator. Among the other contributors are the designer of the LHC itself, Lyn Evans; physicists with and without faith who have been at CERN from the early days; a scientist who studies anti-matter and other members of CERN staff, old and new. Faith in Science is presented by Elin Rhys, a scientist raised as a Baptist, who struggles with not knowing the answer to what was there before The Big Bang and tries to discover how scientists with a faith square this with their research into why we exist. (Image: Elin Rhys and Dr Orlando Villalobos Baillie stand in front of the Alice Experiment at CERN. Credit: Telesgop)
7/1/202227 minutes, 11 seconds
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The Church's slave plantation: Part two

In the second part of this two part series looking at the role of the Church of England in Barbados, Professor Robert Beckford explores the Christian understanding of reparations. Where does the idea come from in Scripture? Has the Anglican church been slow to address the slave trade as a focus of reparatory justice? Robert speaks to Christians in Barbados who say reparations from the Church are now both justified and necessary. But their perspective is only one side of the story. In England, representatives from the Church of England and the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel articulate their understanding of reparations and how they propose to atone for their past involvement in the transatlantic slave trade. Robert looks into Christian scripture to explore if there could be a theological case for the payment of reparations. Presenter: Robert Beckford Producer: Rajeev Gupta
6/24/202226 minutes, 28 seconds
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The Church's slave plantation: Part one

What are the consequences of the Church of England's historic slave plantations in Barbados today? Theologian Robert Beckford considers why and how the Church's missionary arm, the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, got involved in the slavery business. He travels to Barbados to hear from a range of voices who tell the story of how in 1710, the Church turned the Codrington Plantation into a missionary experiment. The original mission failed but later generations did eventually adopt the Anglican faith. However, spurred by the country becoming a republic, some are now questioning the Church's historic role in slavery. For some, it has turned them away from Christianity; for others, there is a need to decolonise or Africanise Anglican Christianity in Barbados. They say the religion's only hope of survival on the island is to make it relevant to the black majority populace. Through the voices of Bajan Anglican worshipers, Robert interrogates what the future of the Church now looks like in terms of practice and governance in Barbados. Presenter: Robert Beckford Producer: Rajeev Gupta
6/17/202226 minutes, 29 seconds
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LGBTQ+: Religion and me

We explore the interplay of faith, spirituality and LGBTQ+ identity in this special episode for Pride Month 2022. We hear three fascinating cross-cultural and religious conversations between people who are also LGBTQ+. Furgie was raised a Muslim as a child in Pakistan. He speaks to Sukhdeep, a gay Sikh man in India. Abby Stein left her strict Hasidic Jewish community and transitioned but she is still very much Jewish. Abby talks to Claire who is a 73-year-old trans woman from the UK. Finally two African queer women explore their relationship with religion - one as a Christian and the other as Muslim growing up in Kenya. Producer: Nina Robinson and Josie LeVay (Image: A rainbow flag seen flying during a Pride March in New York, USA, 2021. Credit: Erik McGregor via Getty Images)
6/10/202226 minutes, 29 seconds
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After ISIS: Reviving the Jewish history of Mosul

When ISIS swept into Mosul in June 2014, the organisation immediately began a campaign to wipe out the most important part of the northern Iraqi city’s unique heritage - its a multi-sectarian culture. Mosul was home to ancient and modern Christian communities, Yazidis, Shia and Sunni Muslims, and at one time, Jews. Throughout the period of ISIS occupation Omar Mohammad, a history lecturer at Mosul University, risked his life daily to get news of the city out to the world via the internet. His Mosul Eye blog became essential reading. Now living in exile in Europe, Omar de Mosul, as he is known, is reconstructing the history ISIS tried and failed to wipe out, including the history of the city’s Jewish community. Presenter Michael Goldfarb spends time with Omar as he collects oral histories from the remaining Jews who were born and grew up in the city. Most Jews left the city in the early 1950s in the upheaval following the establishment of Israel. He also speaks with Rabbi Carlos Huerta, retired US army chaplain, who spent the first year after the US overthrew Saddam Hussein in Mosul with the 101st Airborne. He had no idea about the rich Jewish history of the place and spent much of his time investigating it. Presenter: Michael Goldfarb Producer: Julia Hayball (Photo: The dilapidated Sasson Synagogue in Iraq's northern city of Mosul destroyed by Jihadists. Credit: by Zaid aL-Obeidi/AFP/Getty Images) A Certain Height production for BBC World Service
5/27/202226 minutes, 29 seconds
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Finding faith on a warship

BBC Faith and Ethics reporter Claire Jones has been granted exclusive access on board British warship HMS Northumberland while on deployment to the North Sea. As Russian troops continue to invade Ukraine, Claire explores faith on a warship, and whether armed forces personnel can ‘find their faith’ in times of trouble or unrest. The military chaplain onboard the warship is Reverend Dr Louisa Pittman, one of three female chaplains in the Royal Navy. She caters for all faiths, never carries a weapon, and holds no rank so the captain or a junior rating can speak freely. Claire follows her as she carries out her duties and hears from sailors onboard about what their faith means to them in times of conflict.
5/20/202227 minutes, 11 seconds
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Kenya's last great Laibon

In traditional Maasai culture one of the central figures of the community is the laibon. A laibon is a person who has been gifted with the power to see the future. They are not really a fortune teller and they are certainly not a witch doctor. They are more like a seer, but some also have the power to cure illnesses. A laibon is the one who advises the community as a whole on the best course of action to take in a given situation. For example, they can use their powers to say where the community’s cattle should be taken in order to find better grazing when there’s a drought. They are the ones who can pronounce when the time is right for important ceremonies. Today hardly any laibon remain. There is still one though. Called Mokompo, he is today an elderly man who lives in one of the remotest corners of Kenya, far from towns, villages, and surfaced roads. Although very few Maasai in Kenya and Tanzania have ever met him, he continues to command huge respect. In this programme journalist Stuart Butler travels to Kenya to meet Mokompo and find out the spiritual secrets of one the country's last laibons. (Photo: Mokompo. Credit: Stuart Butler)
5/13/202227 minutes, 20 seconds
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Faith in journalism

According to some studies, journalists tend to be less religious than the general population. Some find solace in faith, but others begin to question it. So is it a profession which challenges your religious convictions, strengthens faith or attracts the faithless? Atif Rashid, a Muslim, has started questioning his role as a journalist who believes in god. What place does religion have in the work that he does? To help him consider his future career steps he speaks to other journalists who have turned to god and others who have questioned their beliefs after seeing so much suffering as foreign correspondents. He meets other young Muslim reporters from the USA and the UAE and asks how their jobs impact their faith. And also catches up with two of his former editors, who quit their jobs to lead a more spiritual lifestyle, one as a vicar and another as a monk. Along the way, he considers whether he should follow the same path.
5/6/202227 minutes, 29 seconds
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Not even water?

It is the number one question asked to anyone who is fasting for Ramadan, which began at the beginning of April. But what is Ramadan? Why Fast? And how do young Muslims manage Ramadan in their respective lives and work? Former teacher turned journalist Mehreen Baig goes in search of the answers by speaking to Muslims from different cultural backgrounds. She explores all aspects of fasting like abstaining from food, sex, music and of course…water. Basically everything you wanted to know about but either didn’t ask or just weren't aware of. (Photo: Iftar water for Ramadan fast opening. Credit: Getty Images)
4/29/202227 minutes, 21 seconds
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Emancipation, assimilation and Jewish identity

For 500 years the Jews of Europe were kept apart, legally segregated in ghettos. Then at the dawn of the 19th Century Jews were emancipated and overnight what it meant to be a Jew in the world changed. Michael Goldfarb looks at how this historic event changed Jewish identity and the world in which Jews lived. In interviews with prominent members of his community in three different countries - a Rabbi, a musician and educator, and an organiser for eastern Europe’s rebuilding Jewish communities, he explores the rapid changes of identity in a group of people who lived an essentially unchanged existence for more than half a millennium. Emancipation changed the practice of Judaism and brought new ideas to the arts. It created controversy within the Jewish community about how far one should assimilate, and hatred outside the Jewish community among those who did not want Jews to assimilate at all. This reaction would create an ideology - anti-Semitism, which would ultimately lead to the near annihilation of Europe’s Jews. (Photo: Anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto rebellion. Creddit: Bernard Bisson/Sygma/Getty Images)
4/22/202227 minutes, 29 seconds
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Ukraine: Faith in a time of war

Easter and Passover are among the most important religious festivals of the year for Christians and Jews. But after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, how will the people of faith still left in the country celebrate? Is it possible to practise your belief when your country is at war? In Odesa, an Orthodox priest is preparing to deliver an Easter service as best he can, even though half of his congregation has left. In the west of Ukraine, members of the Jewish Ukrainian Social Initiative are organising supplies for those elderly members of the faith left in Kyiv. And Radio Maria, a Christian radio station based in the capital, is still broadcasting to as much of the country as possible, and has seen listening figures soar. But will it be safe enough for them to broadcast mass at Easter? Julia Paul speaks to people from the Orthodox, Jewish and Catholic faiths in Ukraine, to hear what it is like living, and worshipping, in a war zone.
4/15/202227 minutes, 19 seconds
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Saving Albania's trafficked victims

For 16 years Sister Imelda Poole has been fighting in a war. This war has brought her to countries all over the world and just when she thinks she is making progress, the war game changes. Based in Albania, during the pandemic Sr Imelda noticed a new trend in human trafficking as people in poorer regions were struggling to pay their rent due to losing their jobs. It came in the form of a compromise from their landlord; offer your daughter for sex or to be entered into the sex industry to clear the debt. Many of these girls were very young. Some were left with no choice, others, thankfully were able to avail of emergency Covid funding. Stories like these are what Sr Imelda and her team at RENATE (Religious in Europe Networking Against Trafficking and Exploitation) are hearing every day and trying to do what they can to rescue woman from trafficking. They are at war with the complex and often vast trafficking gangs who move women out of countries like Albania and into Italy and other parts of Europe. Now, they operate online as much as offline, using the dark web as a marketplace for people. We meet Sr Imelda in Albania to hear how a small nun from England ended up doing this work. We talk to her about how her faith gives her the fire to keep fighting for these women, despite figures showing that the problem of trafficking is only getting worse. At a recent visit to the Vatican, Sr Imelda met with Pope Francis in a bid to highlight the plight of these women and show how the Church can help them. We meet some of those girls who have been rescued and given a new life to hear their stories. And we visit the poorer regions of Albania and hotspots where the gangs operate. (Image: Sister Imelda Poole. Credit: BBC)
3/25/202227 minutes, 49 seconds
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Young Hindus

What does it mean to be a young Hindu in India today? The BBC’s South Asia correspondent Rajini Vaidyanathan is in Delhi with a panel of young people aged between 18-27 who have travelled from across India to share what their faith means to them. They give their views on the caste system, Hindu nationalism, interfaith marriage, who is and is not a Hindu and the values and rituals that sustain them in their daily life. Presenter: Rajini Vaidyanathan Producer: John Offord (Photo: Rajini Vaidyanathan with Delhi producer Shalu Yadav and panellists Ojas Sahasrabudhe, Kashish Kunden, Akshat Pal, Architi Batra, Disha Singh, Sankalp Dash, Swarangi Joshi, Akshay Anand and Siddhant Mohite)
3/18/202227 minutes, 21 seconds
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Germany's turbulent priest

The German Catholic church is one of the most influential and richest in the world. It is at the epicentre of Catholic theology, debates over the future of the church, and the sexual abuse scandals that have rocked the Catholic faith all over the world. Revelations over priests accused of child sexual abuse being protected from consequences by church institutions continue to emerge, with a recent bombshell report even linking Pope Benedict with the scandal from his time in Germany. Many are losing confidence in the church's ability to adapt, and are leaving Catholicism for good. Wolfgang Rothe is one of a new generation of Catholic thinkers; he does things from his Parish in Bavaria that for many are still unthinkable. He presides over blessings for same sex couples, gives women the opportunity to preach in his church, and advocates for an end to celibacy for priests. He has also become something of a celebrity on social media, bringing his campaign to a wider audience. He hopes that by keeping up with modern values, the Catholic Church can win back an increasingly disillusioned generation of German worshippers. BBC correspondent Damien McGuinness heads to Munich to meet Wolfgang, exploring what his movement is trying to do, and the immense ructions its causing in the Catholic world, where the church's traditional values are still sacrosanct. As Wolfgang's mission gains momentum, it could tear the whole church in two. Presenter: Damien McGuinness Producer: Robert Nicholson A Whistledown production for the BBC World Service
3/13/202227 minutes, 6 seconds
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The Sikh whistleblower

Pav Gill, a Sikh lawyer living in Singapore, joined the Wirecard financial services empire in 2017. Wirecard had global ambitions to become a big player like Google or Amazon. But it did not take long until Pav realised that there were fraudulent business practises going on. To investigate and examine the financial wrong-doing he had discovered, Pav commissioned an independent report - with damning results. Advised by his mother, Sokhbir Kaur, a woman of strong Sikh faith, Pav eventually decided to blow the whistle on Wirecard. At which point things turned very ugly. In conversation with Mike Wooldridge, Pav Gill and Sokhbir Kaur recall what it took for them to do the right thing and expose Wirecard’s fraudulent practises and ultimately bring down the company – and what the cost was to their own lives. Presenter: Mike Wooldridge Producer: Lore Windemuth (Photo: Exterior view of the Wirecard AG building in Aschheim, Germany. Credit: Roland Krivec/DeFodi Images/Getty Images) A CTVC production for BBC World Service
2/25/202227 minutes, 29 seconds
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Muslim and lesbian

From an early age, Fatima Daas knew that she was different. Raised in a strict Algerian Muslim family in the poor suburbs of Paris, she struggled to reconcile the feelings she was developing with her devotion to her faith. Her upbringing dictated that she would have to choose between Islam and her sexuality. At high school, she tried and failed to start teenage romances with boys. Confused and isolated, one day she even took out her frustrations on a fellow student whom she resented for being able to be openly gay. Mike Wooldridge travels to the suburbs of Paris to meet Fatima and some of those who accompanied her on her difficult journey. He hears about the pressures she came under, and her fears of disappointing both her family and her community. As she grew up, Fatima says, she coped “by speaking to God…as if He was a counsellor,” sharing with Him her innermost secrets. And for many years, she says, she was convinced she was the only lesbian who was also a Muslim. Now in her mid-20s, Fatima tells Mike how she eventually reconciled her inner conflicts and made her choice. She has recently published a frank semi-autobiographical novel about her experiences, which has caused a stir in France. “I’m not going to reform a religion that’s existed for such a long time,” Fatima says, adding: “But I have never doubted God.” (Image: Fatima Daas. Credit: Mike Lanchin)
2/18/202227 minutes, 26 seconds
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The transgender pastor

June Joplin was born outwardly a boy, but at the age of 11, at a Christian summer camp, two things became very clear to her: that she was supposed to be a pastor, and that she was supposed to be a girl. Becoming a pastor was the easy bit. June studied to become a Baptist minister in Richmond, Virginia, married and started a family. Yet the sense that she was really a woman never left her – and by her own admission, the struggles with her gender identity led to a depression which at times made her difficult to live with. Eventually, by now living in Canada, she decided to come out as a transgender woman to her congregation and face the consequences. In conversation with Mike Wooldridge, June Joplin tells her story and reflects on the cost of doing what she felt was the right thing. Presenter: Mike Wooldridge. Producer: Rosie Dawson A CTVC production for BBC World Service (Photo: June Joplin)
2/11/202227 minutes, 42 seconds
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From Hong Kong to the UK

BBC Hong Kong reporter Danny Vincent hears from Christian migrants who have fled the territory for a new life in the UK. Many of the people Danny hears from are speaking about their experiences for the first time. A large number of Christians have made the difficult decision to leave Hong Kong after the introduction of a controversial national security law, which critics say is eroding freedoms in Hong Kong. Danny also meets their friends and family who have been left behind, the Christians still worshipping in Hong Kong. Hong Kong was a British colony for 156 years until it was returned to Chinese control on 1 July, 1997. China formed the special administrative region of Hong Kong, which had maintained governance and economic systems separate from those of China's communist regime. Around 600 UK churches of different denominations have signed up to be “Hong Kong Ready”, welcoming Christians from Hong Kong into their church communities. One in 10 of new arrivals is estimated to be Christian. (Photo: Jimmy Lai. Credit: Danny Vincent)
2/4/202227 minutes, 13 seconds
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Thai Buddhism: Leaving the monkhood

In the internet age, the traditional way Thailand’s monks reach out to young followers is under threat. With nearly three quarters of Thailand’s population on Facebook, a move by two monks to broadcast their teachings live has created controversy, and exposed a growing schism within the religion. It ultimately leads one of the men to turn his back on the temple. Thai reporter Chaiyot Yongcharoenchai hears from 30-year-old monk Phra Maha Paivan Worawono, from Bangkok who landed himself in trouble after he appeared in his sermons to laugh and joke, as he poked fun at current affairs and politics. The Buddhist authorities did not find the sessions amusing after more than 200,000 people had logged on to watch and lead to an investigation by the National Office for Buddhism. As more monks turn to social media in a bid to revolutionise how the Dharrma is taught, is the resignation of Thailand’s most popular internet monk a sign that traditional Buddhism must modernise, or face becoming irrelevant to the country’s young population? (Photo: Thai monk Sompong. Credit: Thai News Pics)
1/21/202227 minutes, 20 seconds
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MH17: Faith after disaster

In the summer of 2014, a passenger jet was shot out of the sky over a rural area of Ukraine. Images of suitcases and children’s toys strewn around the burning wreckage were beamed and streamed around the world. All 298 people on board were killed. Two thirds of the victims were Dutch and this air disaster is often referred to as the Netherlands 9/11 - likening the impact of the downing of flight MH17 to that of the terror attacks in New York, in terms of the way these unfathomable events ignited a collective grief and national mourning. Four men are on trial for their alleged role in the mass murder. In the most recent hearings, relatives were given an opportunity to share their stories, the ‘victim impact’ testimonies, as they were called in court, revealed how this single event had affected so many lives in so many ways and gave a glimpse into how faith has been tested, lost and rediscovered. Anna Holligan has been reporting on this story for the BBC since the day flight MH17 was brought down. She has got to know many of the surviving relatives, some of whom are still struggling to comprehend what happened to their loved ones. To what extent did faith has play a role in their ability to go on after they lost everything? And she speaks to experts about how the public mourning, and global attention has shaped the way in which families sought solace in their faith and found hope in the darkness. (Photo: A religious cross marks the entrance of the village Grabovo, on the site of the flight MH17 disaster, in Grabovo, Ukraine. Credit: Pierre Crom/Getty Images)
1/14/202227 minutes, 23 seconds
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Failing faith

Poland is often seen as a stronghold of the Catholic faith. Yet today, many Poles are now protesting against the Church’s political over-reach - by simply leaving. With more secular, more ‘western’ ideas and movements penetrating what was once a bastion of Roman Catholicism in Eastern Europe, more and more people are deciding to part ways with the Church. While around 90% of Poles identify themselves as Catholics, only 40% go to church regularly: and that number is falling as the Church loosens its grip on society – as the country becomes what Poles themselves call ‘more European’. The decision to leave is not an easy one. So just what is the practical side of apostasy? How does one formally ‘separate’ from the church? What does it mean for the individual as well as society? Once you are out, how does life change afterwards? And why is the phenomenon surging right now? Presenter John Beauchamp follows the journey of a number of individuals who have either parted with the church or are in the process of doing so. We explore the struggles they have to embark on to tear themselves away from the Catholic church in Poland, which still tries to hold a firm moral grip on Polish society – and which often overreaches its permissible mandate by swaying voting habits and directly telling people how to lead their lives. (Photo: A Pro-LGBT activist holds a portrait of the Virgin Mary that reads 'Jesus also had two fathers' during the annual Krakow Equality March 2020. Credit: Artur Widak/NurPhoto/Getty Images) Producers: Bartosz Panek and Jarosław Kociszewski A Free Range and Overcoat Media Production for BBC World Service
1/7/202227 minutes, 25 seconds
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Andrea Bocelli: Faith and music

Andrea Bocelli is a multi-award winning Italian tenor who has sold over 75 million records worldwide. Blind from the age of 12, singing was always his passion but he never could have dreamt his life would turn out as it has. When asked what he puts his sucsess down to, he lists his talents, hard work, and overall his belief and faith in God. A strong Catholic, Bocelli has even performed for three popes at the Vatican, and his faith lead him to establish the Andrea Bocelli Foundation where he helps people in impoverished and disaster-stricken parts of the world. Much of his music has a spiritual air to it, and has sustained Bocelli through the ups and downs of life. This Christmas, Heart & Soul on the BBC World Service will present a special one-on-one interview with Andreea Bocelli, presented by Rome based journalist Colm Flynn. The programme will be recorded in the historic Italian city of Florence and will feature some of Bocelli's much-loved music, as well as the story of his life and faith. (Photo: Andrea Bocelli. Credit: Colm Flynn/BBC)
12/24/202127 minutes, 26 seconds
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Black, Jewish and proud

Journalist Nadine Batchelor-Hunt is a black, Jewish woman. She is is fiercely proud of her dual identity - even as recent political discourse around race has meant that she has been forced to defend her identity in ways she's never had to before. She is on a journey to meet one of the oldest, largest and most resilient communities of black Jews in the world: Israel’s Ethiopian Jewish minority. Around 140,000 black Ethiopian Jews live in Israel today following several waves of emigration in the 1980s and 1990s. They left everything they knew behind to flee antisemitic persecution in Ethiopia to go the spiritual homeland they had dreamt of for millennia. But for many, that did not mean they felt welcome - with complaints of discrimination, alienation, and even police brutality. Nadine joins the community as they celebrate a Jewish holy day unique to their community - Sigd - a festival where Ethiopian Jews remember the acceptance of the Torah, express their yearning for Jerusalem, as well as celebrate their unique culture and identity in modern Israel. Sitting down in conversation with religious leaders, activists and other members of the community, Nadine explores if she can learn anything about her own sense of self as a Black Jewish woman. And importantly, what can they teach her about accepting her own dual identity in a world that frequently questions it? Photo: Presenter Nadine Batchelor-Hunt in Israel Credit: Candace Wilson/BBC
12/10/202127 minutes, 35 seconds
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America’s abortion wars

Jan was 33 when she had an abortion. She now believes she murdered her child and works with Catholic organisations to get the procedure banned. Erika was 14 when she terminated her first pregnancy. She is now a church minister and believes God wants her to fight to protect the rights of women to choose an abortion. Across America women and churches are divided on the issue. And it’s coming to a head as many states, emboldened by recently appointed conservative justices on the Supreme Court, are attempting to undermine federal protections. Jane O’Brien went to Texas where the procedure has been banned after six weeks - long before most women even know they’re pregnant. She spoke with women of faith on both sides of the debate who believe God is on their side as America’s abortion wars intensify. (Photo: Pro-choice demonstrators at the Supreme Court in Washington DC. Credit: Jane O'Brien)
12/3/202127 minutes, 31 seconds
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Turning of the bones

To celebrate the lives of loved ones after they have passed away is nothing new. Many communities cling to memories, stories and anything else that makes them feel as close as possible to those who have died. For the Malagasy people, an Austronesian ethnic group native to the island country of Madagascar, this desire to remain close to lost loved ones is viewed in a more literal sense with a funerary tradition known as Famadihana - the turning of the bones. With the belief that the spirits of the dead only finally join the world of the ancestors after the body's complete decomposition, this ceremony involves exhuming the bodies of loved ones, replacing the silk cloth wrapped around them, and celebrating their lives as they are once again laid to rest. Volana Razafimanatsoa explores the shifting spiritual landscape amongst the Malagasy people in the 21st Century, joining a family celebrating their loved ones and discovering what the future holds for one of their most cherished traditions. (Photo: Isabel Malala Razafindrakoto carries the wrapped body of her son, who died aged three, as she takes part in a funerary tradition called the Famadihana. Credit: Rijasolo/AFP/Getty Images)
11/26/202127 minutes, 15 seconds
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The hidden faiths of Northern Ireland

This year marks the centenary of Northern Ireland. Since its inception it has been divided between those who want to be Irish, who are mostly Catholic, and those who want to remain British, who are mostly Protestant. But what about the people of faith outside the sectarian divide – or those of no faith? Reporter Julia Paul meets Joseph Nawaz, whose father was a Muslim from Pakistan and whose mother a white Catholic from Northern Ireland. His parents were married in the 1970s, at a time when most NI churches wouldn’t even marry a Catholic and Protestant. Joseph talks about his journey to embrace his mixed heritage and the two very different religions in his childhood. Esther Chong was born in Malaysia to Chinese parents and moved to Northern Ireland for a better life. The day after she arrived she attended a service at the Chinese Christian Church in Belfast and she says God began to show her her path forward in Northern Ireland. Both her children are autistic and she now runs support groups at her church for other Chinese families, especially those who struggle with the language barrier. Dr Satyavir Singhal is a consultant at the Royal Hospital in Belfast and a Hindu. He moved to Northern Ireland from India with his family in 2000. The more people in Northern Ireland asked him about his faith and his country of birth, the more he was drawn closer to his faith. In 2014, he became more involved in the Indian Community Centre and Hindu Temple in Belfast, and now he teaches society about Hinduism. (Photo: Dr Satyavir Singhal. Credit: Julia Paul)
11/19/202127 minutes, 12 seconds
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Lipa Schmelzer: The Jewish Lady Gaga

Lipa Schmeltzer is a bright star in the world of Jewish music; only his music sounds nothing like traditional Jewish music! In fact, he has been nicknamed, the ‘Jewish Lady Gaga’! Growing up in New York, in an ultra-conservative Hasidic community, Lipa was always different. At school, he was taught all subjects in Yiddish, and when he found it hard to concentrate his teachers called him the 'dumb kid' and told him he would never amount to anything. He had a dream of being a singer, but when he started writing and performing his own songs, his father and rabbi told him to stop and concentrate on studying the Bible. Lipa agreed and publicly apologised to the community for the modern music he had been creating - but it was not long until he started again. Lipa's music and performance style represented a split in his community: the younger Hasidic Jewish who loved the modern Jewish beats and wanted him to perform at their weddings and children's bar mitzvahs, and then the older more reserved Jewish who thought it was disrespectful and would lead people away from holy scripture and on a path to hell. Today Lipa lives in both worlds, creating modern Jewish music while trying to stay true to his roots. But it is not always easy, as Colm Flynn found out when he went to New York to visit Lipa. (Photo: Lipa Schmeltzer)
11/12/202127 minutes, 31 seconds
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COP26: Faith and the environment

This week leaders from over 200 countries have been making pledges to cut carbon emission at the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26). But for many climate activists on the ground, action speaks lounder than words. Reporter Rajeev Gupta speaks to activists who say they are compelled by their faith to act now. He hears from Alphonce Munyao, a Catholic activist from Kenya, who says climate change there is causing droughts, leading to wild animals entering urban areas in search of food and water. Alphonce says religion for him is not just about preaching, but is a call to action. William Morris, an Evangelical, says he grew up believing there was no need to protect the planet as the world was temporary. He describes why many in his tradition believe climate change is a hoax, and how he now goes back into his church and tries to persuade people otherwise. Rajeev also speaks to Sheila Chauhan, a Hindu who runs a project called Green Karma – Blue Planet. Sheila says the protection of the environment is one of the fundamental teachings of her faith, and that the energy of God is found in all living things. She describes her own deep connection to the environment, and how she has made it her life's work to spread the message of climate protection. Tonga is a country that faces an extensive threat from rising sea levels: some scientists have predicted the South Pacific island could be completely drowned within 50 years. Sixteen-year-old twins Louisa and Lorrain describe how the changing weather has been affecting them, and how they want religious leaders to do more than just talk about the issues. Finally, Rajeev speaks to Malaysian activist Aroe Ajoeni, who has been working with indigenous Malay tribes. Aroe says the indigenous people are aware things have been changing, but thought it was because the gods were angry with them. She says by helping them to understand the impacts of carbon emissions, some of the youngsters in the community have started to question why they should be affected by the pollution of others. Presented and produced by Rajeev Gupta Image: A protester at the COP26 summit in Glasgow (Credit: Oli Scarff/AFP via Getty Images)
11/5/202127 minutes, 27 seconds
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Trying to save the Latin Mass

Communities that celebrate with the Latin Mass have prospered. Now, Pope Francis has ruled that Catholics may only use the Latin Mass if their bishops agree to let them. Instead of a rule of tolerance for the Old Rite, wherever Catholics want it, there will be tolerance on a case-by-case basis. Many traditionally-minded Catholics believe that what is at stake here is the soul of the Catholic church, with a liberal old guard, with Francis at their head, hoping to snuff out a rising generation of conservatives before they take over. In France, the more old-fashioned Catholics still often have very large families and, proportionately, many more of their sons become priests. In this edition of Heart and Soul, France-based correspondent John Laurenson takes us into the extraordinary world of traditional Catholicism in France. We go to Versailles, the former seat of the ardently-Catholic monarchy, that is today the unofficial capital of the ‘tradi’ movement. John meets young Catholics to find out what attracts so many young believers to the Old Rite. Producer and Presenter: John Laurenson Image: John Laurenson/BBC
10/22/202126 minutes, 56 seconds
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Activist Sikh

Many Sikhs all over the world have joined together in support of protests by Indian farmers against new laws proposed by the Indian government. Solidarity has come from musicians, singers, sportspeople and many young second and third generation diaspora Sikhs who have joined social media and local drive-thru protests in British, Canadian and American cities. A culture of protest is embedded in Sikhism through prayer, songs and stories, which inspires this sense of activism. Modern-day Sikhs, through their poetry or music or through their voluntary work or political campaigns, explain how their religion’s history of protest against persecution and standing up to injustice, inspires their view of the world in 2021. Pavneet is a poet whose work is unapologetic and seeks to stand up for women, against a caste and patriarchal system. DJ Rekha, based in New York, ran a broadcast through the 2020 US Presidential election night live on Twitch, and linked her music playlists to political campaigns against poverty, racism and sexism. Sukhdeep Singh stood for the rights of gay people in India by setting up Gaylaxy, an online magazine, at 22 years old. He started a queer collective on Instagram in 2019 and he wore a rainbow turban to the Golden Temple in Amritsar. The roots and passing down of stories in families from Sikh history, as well as the use of social media to spread campaign messages, are, they say, helping to nurture and grow a shared sense of Sikh activism against inequality and oppression. Produced by Nina Robinson for BBC World Service. Executive Producer: Rajeev Gupta (Photo: Farmers shout slogans as they take part in a protest rally against the central government's agricultural reforms in Amritsar on September 28, 2021. Credit: NARINDER NANU/AFP via Getty Images)
10/15/202127 minutes, 37 seconds
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Getting married the Nigerian way

Hannah Ajala, a British-Yoruba broadcaster will walk us through the sounds, beats and meanings of a Yoruba engagement ceremony. Speaking to those at the heart of the traditional marriage and exploring its importance on what could be considered the most important day of their lives. Producer: Tobi Olujinmi (Photo: Yoruba marriage ceremony. Credit: David Olujinmi)
10/8/202127 minutes, 37 seconds
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The Myanmar mission

David Eubank, who is originally from Texas, lives in the jungles of the Karen state near the Thai-Myanmar border, along with his wife and children. The Karen people have been fighting the Myanmar military for decades, in the world’s longest civil war. Since the military coup on 1 February, the Karen Nation Union has sided with a people’s uprising demanding democracy is restored, and has launched attacks on the military. The army has responded with bombings that have displaced tens of thousands of people. David has seen first-hand what has happened. Hundreds of young protesters have fled to ethnic areas, including into the area David is working in. His group, The Free Burma Rangers, has provided survival and medical training to some of these young people who want to continue fighting to restore democracy. He is also part of an underground railway helping to smuggle out politicians, artists and activists who are on the military’s wanted list. David takes us on a mission through the jungle to get aid to civilians caught up in the conflict. (Photo: Sahale walks by a burning shack and opium field on a mission. Credit: Free Burma Rangers)
10/1/202127 minutes, 10 seconds
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Rebuilding Ise

Ise Jingu is a Shinto shrine in Japan that is full of paradoxes. Every 20 years, for the past 1300 years, Ise Jingu has been rebuilt from scratch. It involves constructing identical copies of 125 structures that cover an area the size of the centre of Paris, using ancient techniques passed down through generations of craftsmen. It is one of the most sacred Shinto shrines in Japan. Every year, over 10 million visitors and pilgrims journey through the depths of the ancient forest that surrounds the shrine, to pay homage to the deities of the Shinto faith. Poet and professor Jordan Smith journeys to the heart of the Jingu in search of the rituals, customs, and spirituality that has kept it as alive today as it was over 1000 years ago. But as Jordan finds out, the essence of Ise Jingu cannot be discovered quite so easily. To get close to what Ise Jingu means to the Shinto faith and Japanese society, Jordan must travel into the depths of the forests of Ise to listen to the inaudible and feel the intangible. On his way he meets priests and professors, who help him discover new ways of interpreting Shinto divinity and what Ise Jingu means to those who journey there.
9/24/202127 minutes, 37 seconds
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The Pope's astronomer

Br. Guy Consolmagno calls himself a 'Sputnik Kid'. He started school the year the Russians launched the world's first satellite. Growing up in Detroit during the space race he remembers the excitement he felt watching Nasa launch rockets into space, "I grew up at a time when anything was possible." He was always fascinated with astronomy. In fact, his father always wanted to be an astronomer but could never turn it into a career. He would show Guy the stars at night and point out the different constellations. Little did he know back then that his son would not only go on to be an astronomer, lecturing at the prestigious colleges of Havard and MIT, but he would go on to become the director of one of the oldest observatories in the world - The Vatican Observatory. The Vatican Observatory has been gazing at the stars since 1582. The church started the observatory to study the heavens in order to make changes to the church calendar. Over the years it became a way for the church to marry science and faith and explore the points where they intersect. The first telescopes were placed right on top of the Vatican, but as Rome grew bigger and brighter, the view of the stars started to fade and so in the 1930s the Vatican built a new large telescope at the Pope's summer residence at Castel Gandolfo 25km south of Rome, and also one in Arizona in the US! There are twelve astronomers working at the Vatican observatory, but Br. Guy, the director, is unique as he is the only one who was appointed by a pope and saint, Saint Pope John Paul II. He worked under JPII, Pope Benedict, and now Pope Francis. He still wears his MIT ring, as well as his white priest's collar. For this Heart and Soul special on the BBC World Service, we will visit the Vatican Observatory to hear about its fascinating history and meet the 'Sputnik Kid' who is passionate about showing the world that science and faith are not as opposed as you might think.
9/17/202128 minutes
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Ground Zero for God

Jim Giaccone will never forget the day his brother Joe simply vanished – killed in a blast so forceful that not even a trace of his remains was ever recovered. Joe was one of the 2,977 victims of the terror attacks of 11 September 2001 when members of al-Qaeda – an Islamist extremist group – flew planes into the World Trade Center in New York. They also crashed into the Pentagon on the outskirts of Washington DC and another plane was downed in a field near the town of Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Jim not only lost his brother that day, he also lost his faith. With grief came anger and a reckoning with God that continues when he revisits New York’s Ground Zero on the 20th anniversary of 9/11. Jim tells his story to Jane O’Brien who discovers that he is not alone in re-evaluating his beliefs. She also hears from others who say the terrible events served to strengthen their faith and a Muslim American who say’s they still face hostility because of their religious identity.
9/10/202127 minutes, 27 seconds
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The Taliban wanted me dead

Marzia Babakarkhail knows what it's like to have the Taliban break her door down intent on killing her. In 1997 they did just that because of her work promoting education and progress for women. She was forced to flee and now lives in the UK. That work continues and has never been more important. As the last of the US military presence leaves Afghanistan Marzia tells her story to Matt O’Donoghue, how she rose to become a judge at 26 and was forced to flee and live under threat of death. But she says her faith never faltered and she carries its strength in the UK where her humanitarian work continues in Manchester. Her fear now is that the progress she has fought for will be ripped away as the Taliban violently grab more and more control of her troubled homeland.
9/3/202127 minutes, 21 seconds
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Abused online for my faith

Sophia Smith Galer, reporter and TikTok creator, speaks to users who have faced discrimination and suppression online based on their religion. We speak to YouTuber Nada Majdy, who regularly faces abuse from Islamophobes whose sexualised comments do not get taken down; the Jewish TikTok creators who try to challenge anti-Semitism, only to have their own videos taken down in the process; and we ask why and how Instagram managed to censor #sikh for nearly three months.
8/27/202126 minutes, 28 seconds
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The Druze

The Druze are a religious minority, living mainly between Syria, Lebanon, and Israel. The religious movement was founded in the 11th Century by Hamza ibn Ali ibn Ahmad, an Ismaili leader, mixing aspects of Shia Islam and Esoterism, among other western philosophies. Because they are an insular community - conversions are forbidden either out of or into the faith - the Druze face a number of existential challenges, in a region where unrest is the norm. Tamara Rasamny meets young Druze men and women to what pressures young people in the community face, and how they reconcile loyalty to their faith and their country.
8/13/202126 minutes, 29 seconds
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Hidden children of the Church

For decades, the Catholic Church rarely acknowledged the fact that supposedly ‘celibate’ priests were fathering children. The scale and impact of these secretive births is only now coming to light. The Vatican does not deny that there could be as many as 10,000 children of Catholic priests living around the world. Many who are now adults describe childhoods separated from their fathers, shrouded in secrecy and shame. For this Heart and Soul, three of them – Vincent Doyle, Michael McGuirk and Sarah Thomas – tell their stories. Produced by Dan Tierney
7/30/202126 minutes, 29 seconds
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Should I take the knee?

Since the murder of George Floyd in 2020, taking the knee has become a prominent sight at protests and sports events, signifying opposition to racism and discrimination. But with some fans booing players for kneeling and some black players refusing to take the knee – has this anti-racist gesture now lost its potency? For rapper and football fan Guvna B taking the knee has an added significance. He is a committed Christian, and knows the religious significance of kneeling. To mark the start of the Olympic Games, he explores taking the knee and its relationship to sport, prayer and protest. Athletes like Colin Kaepernick, who sacrificed his NFL career to take the knee before a game have cited their faith as an inspiration, but many Christian sports women and men have remained upright, refusing to kneel. They say that kneeling is only reserved for God. Kneeling was meant to be a gesture of solidarity by black and white athletes to show their contempt for racism, but divisions have also formed - footballers have been booed by their own fans because, they say, of its links with the organisation Black Lives Matter. Guvna B explores the history of taking the knee, speaks to athletes like NBA star Jonathan Isaac who have refused to take the knee because of their love for God, and ask what’s next for taking the knee and for the sporting world’s response to racism. Athletes at the Olympics are banned from taking the knee. But with issues like systemic racism still dominating headlines, as athletes stand on the podium in Tokyo, what will their response be, and what will be the reaction to it?
7/23/202127 minutes, 16 seconds
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The Uighur poets

Uighur poetry is and has been for centuries a fundamental part of the culture and members of the community write poetry and often recite part poems that have been passed down the generations and learn off by heart. As the community face widespread persecution by the Chinese authorities and at a time of great despair and fear for them, Uighurs speak to us about the ways in which poetry offers ways of support, succour and resistance. The programme features the voices and works of Uighurs, poets and experts from across the world.
7/16/202126 minutes, 29 seconds
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Doping, diving and God

In the run up to the Tokyo Olympics professor Robert Beckford explores how cheating in sport conflicts with Christian principles. He asks how can an Olympic champion stand on the podium with a gold medal and then thank God in an interview if they have taken performance enhancing drugs? Can a footballer celebrate the penalty he has ‘won’ and then point to the sky in honour of God?In this edition of Heart and Soul, featuring Olympic medallist Ben Johnson, Robert explores what the Christianity has to say about fair play and whether by cheating you are dishonouring your faith.
7/9/202126 minutes, 29 seconds
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Sex, Christianity and purity

Where does God fit into your sex life? Decades after signing up to remain ‘pure’ until marriage, many Evangelical Christian Millennials are still confused by that question – and some are turning to counselling for help. In the 1990s a sexual abstinence movement became popular in the US and eventually spread to the UK. This ‘purity culture’ recruited young people to wait until marriage before having sex, and wear a silver ring to advertise their pledge. But what effect did it have on the thousands of teenagers who took part. Journalist Harriet Bradshaw went to a Christian evangelical/Pentecostal youth church as a teenager, and has been fascinated with the movement ever since. She revisits her own past, and hears from others who signed up to find out what their lives are like now.
7/2/202126 minutes, 29 seconds
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Finding my Hinduism

Colourful temples, bells , incense and a multitude of deities and festivals - journalist Nalini Sivathasan grew up immersed in her parents’ religion, Hinduism. But as she has grown older, she has found it harder to connect with her faith and speaking to her friends, she finds she is not alone. Unlike most other religions, Hinduism has no single founder, no single scripture nor commonly agreed set of teachings – which for some, can make it tricky to navigate. On her journey to discover ‘her Hinduism’, Nalini talks to the Hindu Academy, which provides online classes and resources on the religion. It’s seen a rise in engagement among young people over the past few years, yet the number of young people attending temples has fallen across the UK. Nalini visits a temple she grew up visiting to find out why and discovers how it’s trying to engage young people in ways other than worship. For charity Go Dharmic, which was founded on the Hindu principle of dharma, practising seva - or selfless service - is the best way for young Hindus to connect with their faith and the world around them. While for vlogger Parle Patel, social media is the place to connect with young Hindus. But Parle says he is often criticised for proudly showcasing his Hinduism identity online. Couple Abhinaya and Rahul are planning their Hindu wedding ceremony. For them the ceremony is more of a cultural event, rather than religious. Will understanding the importance and symbolism of the rituals bring them any closer to their faith? Nalini also speaks to Indian politician Shashi Tharoor. While unsparing in his criticism of certain elements sometimes linked to Hinduism, he describes himself as a proud, believing Hindu. How is he able to navigate the apparent contradictions he sees within his religion? Nalini tries to make sense of what it means to be a Hindu today, talks to those practising the faith in their own distinct way and decides whether there is a version of Hinduism out there which best suits her.
6/25/202126 minutes, 29 seconds
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Ministering behind bars

Can the prison be a “citizen factory” where the rebellious soul goes in and comes out as a demure, indoctrinated model citizen? Is the God of Punishment the same as the God of Salvation? How do priests, imams and rabbis work with inmates who wish to return to faith? Lipika Pelham examines whether the Foucauldian phrase “soul is the prison of the body” offers a guideline to the modern criminal system for its rehabilitation programme. Traditionally, religious beliefs have inclined to the opposite, that the body imprisons the soul. Earlier ways of dealing with outlaws often involved extreme physical stress to achieve the docility of the body. This was believed to be the key to making prisoners conform to social norms and become good citizens. Lipika asks representatives of major world religions if they think the pathway to correction is through faith. She hears conversations between an inmate and his Christian worker; reflections of a rabbi, an imam, and a Buddhist meditation teacher about their methods to stop offenders from committing further crimes.
6/11/202127 minutes, 19 seconds
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The schools that chain boys

For 18 months reporter Fateh al-Rahman al-Hamdani filmed inside 23 Islamic schools, or khalwas, across Sudan for a BBC News Arabic investigation. He uncovered systemic child abuse, with boys as young as five years old routinely chained, shackled and beaten by the “sheikhs”, or religious men in charge of the schools. The investigation also found evidence of sexual abuse. We visit some of the nearly 30,000 Sudanese khalwas, where children are taught to memorise the Koran. The schools receive money from the government and private donors both in Sudan and around the world. Because they charge no fees, many families consider them an alternative to mainstream education, especially in remote villages that may not have government-run schools. Students board there, only returning home for the holidays. We meet two 14-year-old boys, Ismail and Mohamed Nader, who were beaten so badly at one khalwa that doctors worried they might not survive, and hear how their families decide to take legal action. We join Fateh as he confronts the sheikh in charge of the school where they were assaulted. And we hear what Sudan’s new transitional government has to say about reforming khalwas. Presented by Paul Bakibinga, narrating the words of Fateh al-Rahman al-Hamdani. Photo: A young boy with his feet shackled and chained. Credit: Jess Kelly/BBC)
6/4/202127 minutes, 13 seconds
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George Floyd: One year on

A year after George Floyd's death, what positives and negatives can Black Christians take away from the tragic series of events that unfolded? In the year since, many black Christian groups have been at the forefront of large protests across the US. Leaders, the media and people from all communities have engaged in conversations about the future of race relations in United States. In addition, churches and church leaders began to work together to understand, to learn, and instigate change. But has the Church gone far enough and what part can and should Christians, both black and white, play in bringing together communities and tackling racism. Professor Robert Beckford hosts a discussion featuring Revd. Minister Elijah McDavid III from The Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church in Minnesota, Dr. Love Sechrest who is Vice President for Academic Affairs at Columbia Theological Seminary and Dr Richard Land, President of Southern Evangelical Seminary in Charlotte and former faith advisor to President George W. Bush. Producers: Rajeev Gupta and Emb Hashmi (Photo: A mural painted by artist Kenny Altidor depicting George Floyd is unveiled on 13 Jul 2020, Brooklyn, New York City/ Credit: Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)
5/28/202127 minutes, 29 seconds
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Bob Dylan: Born again

Bob Dylan was brought up in a Jewish household in the American Midwest, but kept his faith away from the spotlight of his professional counter-culture persona. That was until the late 1970s when he converted to evangelical Christianity and released an album that shared his born again beliefs with the world. We join his childhood friend, Louie Kemp, as we delve into why the boy he met at a Jewish summer camp turned to Christianity. We hear from Regina McCray, his backing singer from the time, who retells the story of her audition where she sang Amazing Grace. She went on to get the job, but little did she know that the song would go on to inspire Dylan’s sound for his next three albums - Slow Train Coming, Saved, and Shot of Love. We also hear from Australian journalist, Karen Hughes, whose in-depth interview with the singer broke to the world how serious Dylan was about Christianity - and from Swedish doctor and musician, Valdemar Erling, whose accidental discovery of Slow Train Coming has been the foundation of his faith for many years. Along with live music tracks, archive excerpts from outraged fans and even the sounds of Bob Dylan preaching to his crowds, we hear how Dylan’s often overlooked ‘Gospel Period’ helped people develop a deeper connection to spirituality that is still relevant today, years after the singer-songwriter appears to have turned his back on organised religion altogether. (Photo: Bob Dylan in concert in Atlanta, Georgia, 1974. Credit: Rick Diamond/WireImage/Getty Images)
5/21/202127 minutes, 30 seconds
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Cardinal Pell

He was once the third most powerful Catholic in the world, overseeing financial reform at the Vatican. But for Cardinal George Pell, the fall from grace was hard when he was accused, convicted, and imprisoned for sexual abuse in his home country of Australia. It was a huge blow for the Catholic church across Australia. Abuse victim groups celebrated his conviction, however not everyone was convinced, and a debate began to rage as to the credibility of the accusations levied against him, as well as the fairness of his trial. Cardinal George Pell always maintained his innocence, and after spending a year in jail, in a startling twist to the story, Australia's highest court overturned his conviction, seven high court judges unanimously ruling. Today, Cardinal George Pell is back in the eternal city of Rome and living right next to the Vatican. In this Heart and Soul special, Colm Flynn meets Cardinal Pell at his home for a one-on-one extended interview to talk about the accusations that were made against him, the time he spent in prison, and why he decided to return to Rome after his release. Presenter and producer: Colm Flynn Executive Producer: Rajeev Gupta (Photo: Cardinal George Pell is surrounded by Australian police as he leaves the Melbourne Magistrates Court in Australia, 6 October, 2017. Credit: Mark Dadswell/Reuters)
5/14/202127 minutes, 28 seconds
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Black Jewish Lives Matter

The death of George Floyd Jr in May 2020 started a wave of unforeseen protests. As these protests consumed the United States, groups of people from various beliefs, backgrounds and origins came out in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, which started in 2014. A year later, under a new US president, the US still faces the same challenges even though police officer Derek Chauvin has been found guilty with murder, many still believe that they are still fighting against institutionalised racism in the US. Monitoring the news in the US, journalist Amie Liebowitz has repeatedly seen images of groups of Jewish people stand side by side, holding placards and wearing t-shirts that said “Tzedek Tzedek Tirdof” (Deuteronomy 16:20) – a passage from the Torah meaning “Justice, Justice you shall pursue”. This message has been adopted by the Jews for Black Lives Matter movement which has always been associated with the act of social justice. This made her reflect on her own context as a white, Ashkenazi Jew from Australia and what this movement meant for her religious community. In this episode of Heart and Soul, Amie Liebowitz reconciles with her lack of knowledge about the black Jewish experience and reflects upon the need for further understanding of both privilege and antisemitism. She speaks to four black Jewish community members in the United States who speak frankly about identity dynamics and misconceptions, racism, activism and the support needed to help resolve the issues they face. Presenter and producer: Amie Liebowitz Executive Producer: Rajeev Gupta Audio clip contributions: Hannah Roodman, Jews for Racial and Economic Justice (JFREJ), Nissim Black, Westside Gravy, Drake and CBS (Picture: April N. Baskin at the Women's March in Washington DC in January 2019 representing Jewish Women of Color / Courtesy of April N. Baskin)
5/7/202126 minutes, 59 seconds
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France and its faltering relationship with Islam

France is on its way to passing The Bill Comforting the Respect of Republican Principles, one of the most controversial laws of President Macron’s presidency. It aims to fight back against what Emmanuel Macron and his ministers are calling “Islamist separatism”, what he says is an assault by Islamist extremists on the values of the French Republic. John Laurenson meets people on both sides of this fractious debate. He visits a closed-down Paris school that its head teacher says is an early victim of President Macron’s war against “Islamist separatism” and meets another teacher – also Muslim - who describes her struggle with what she says is religious extremism in the classroom. John meets an MP and the head of a militant secularist organisation both keen on the law. He also goes to Trappes, a suburb of Paris that many say is a breeding ground for Islamic extremism, and drinks mint tea with a scholar of Islam. He meets an Islamic bookseller called John, goes to the mosque and talks to the mayor, eats a “halal ham” sandwich, meets an inhabitant who says she lives “Islamist separatism” every day and another who says the new law stigmatises Muslims in general and will separate them still further from the non-Muslim people of France. (Photo: A woman holds a placard reading "Freedom leads all the people" as protesters demonstrate against a bill dubbed as "anti-separatism", in Paris. Credit: Geoffroy Van Der Hasselt/AFP/Getty Images)
4/30/202127 minutes, 16 seconds
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Prince belong Vanuatu

Villagers believe Prince Philip is returning to his ancestral home on their Pacific island. In a handful of villages on the island of Tanna, in Vanuatu, he has been revered as an ancestral spirit and son of their mountain god, and they have been waiting for him to return to them, either in person during his lifetime or in spirit form after his death. The prince never visited the island of Tanna, but letters, photographs and gifts were exchanged over the years and the prince met a delegation of islanders at Windsor Castle in 2007. Tanna elders sent Prince Philip a "nal nal" pig hunting club. He sent them back a picture of himself holding the club, which the villagers cherish. It is thought the religious movement started after the 1974 royal tour of the Pacific, during which the Queen and Prince Philip visited Vanuatu, then known as the New Hebrides. Presenter: Jo Dwyer (Photo: Sikor Natuan holds a water damaged portrait of Britain's Prince Philip in a partially built monument to the British royal near the remote village of Yaohnanen. Credit: Torsten Blackwood/AFP/Getty Images)
4/23/202127 minutes, 29 seconds
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Modern Midrash

For thousands of years Jews have sought to understand the Bible, with all its inconsistencies and contradictions, through “midrash”. Midrash is a combination of interpretation and teaching based on the written texts of the Old Testament that tell the story of the ancient Hebrews, from the creation of the world, through God making his covenant with Abraham, the Exodus from Egypt, the destruction of Jerusalem, the Temple and the exile to Babylon. As what it means to be Jewish has changed over the millennia, Jews have used midrash to re-interpret their identity in the world. In this edition of “Heart and Soul,” Michael Goldfarb searches through the ancient texts for clues to what it is to be Jewish in the 21st Century. He looks for modern midrash in conversations with a rabbi, an archaeologist, a Jewish Studies professor, a psychoanalyst, and a composer who is writing musical midrash for each part of the Torah, the five books of Moses. They talk about the historical truth of the Bible, and can midrashic interpretation help find meaning in the Holocaust, and even these days of the pandemic.
4/9/202127 minutes, 4 seconds
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Pope Francis in Iraq: The historic pilgrimage

The world watched on as Pope Francis embarked on what he called a pilgrimage to the Middle East, a journey that could possibly be the Holy Father's legacy. Despite worries of the Covid pandemic and the real threat of a terrorist attack, Pope Francis became the first pontiff in history to visit Iraq. Standing among rubble and ruins in the devastated city of Mosul where ISIS took root and threatened to behead him, Pope Francis proclaimed "hope is more powerful than hatred, that peace more powerful than war." In this programme Colm Flynn travels on the papal flight to Iraq to talk to Iraqi Christians and Muslims who have come out to welcome Pope Francis to their nation. The programme will bring you behind the scenes on a papal trip, and let you experience real moments with the Iraqi people who hope that the Pope's visit will bring long-lasting healing and peace to their land. Presenter and Producer: Colm Flynn Additional audio supplied by EWTN Picture credit: Colm Flynn /EWTN
4/2/202126 minutes, 59 seconds
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Creating life after death

Everyone tells five-year-old Shira Malka she looks just like her dad. She has his green eyes. But she’s never met him, because he died seven years before she was born. Shira was conceived through posthumous reproduction, where a child is created from the frozen sperm or eggs of a person who has died. The practice is banned in some places, tightly restricted in others. But Israel - a country that leads the world in assisted reproduction - is testing the boundaries on allowing this new method of family creation. Shira is a one of a small but growing number of children to be born through posthumous reproduction in Israel over the last two decades. Her grandmother, Julia Pozniansky describes how she struggled for seven years to fulfil her son’s dying wish to father a child and leave her a grandchild. She was helped by Irit Rosenblum, a family lawyer who specialises in these cases and has even created a legal tool document she called the ‘Biological Will’ that enables people to express their wishes about becoming a parent after death. Shira’s mother, Liat Malka discusses why posthumous reproduction was a good alternative for her to anonymous sperm donation. Irit is adamant that the state should be removing barriers to the practice and instead allowing those who die, and their bereaved loved ones, to continue their legacy. But the practice does have its critics and has generated headlines and national debate. Israeli bioethicist Vardit Ravitsky - professor at the University of Montreal and the President of the International Association of Bioethics - explores the ethical arguments on both sides of the issue, and describes how Israeli culture and Jewish tradition have allowed the country to become ‘a unique pressure cooker for allowing reproduction’. She debates the subject with the fiercest critic she knows - her son. Producer/presenter: Viv Jones Editor: Penny Murphy (Photo: Shira and Liat Malka, courtesy of the family)
3/30/202126 minutes, 29 seconds
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Eighteen years in hell

In 1971, Aziz BineBine – a junior officer in the Moroccan army – was ordered to take part in a military exercise. Unbeknown to him, the attack on King Hassan’s summer palace near Casablanca was in fact a coup attempt. The coup failed – and Aziz, who had never fired a shot, was accused of being part of the plot. He found himself publicly disowned by his father, a devout Islam scholar and close associate of the King. Sentenced to 10 years in jail, Aziz was soon transferred to the dungeon of a secret prison in the Atlas mountains - Tazmamart. It was what Aziz describes as hell; his cell, furnished only with a concrete bench, was dark and dank, liable to flooding by blocked sewers, shared with scorpions and cockroaches, searing in summer and freezing in winter. Many of his fellow prisoners perished. Aziz was to remain at Tazmamart for 18 years. But he found astonishing inner resources to survive this hell. Even before entering Tazmamart, he had made an act of complete, unconditional surrender to God, which enabled him to live one day at a time and forget everything else, even any desire to regain his freedom. Aziz tells the story of his captivity and the faith that sustained him in conversation with John McCarthy, who himself experienced a long imprisonment as a British hostage in Lebanon in the 1980s. Both men were eventually released in 1991. (Photo: The prison of Tazmamart, a former barracks in the eastern Middle Atlas mountains 60km from the city of Errachidia, Morocco. Credit:: Abdelhak Senna/AFP/Getty Images)
3/12/202127 minutes
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The Right Thing: A life worth living?

Mike Wooldridge explores another story of faith and hard decisions. When American Beth Ball was pregnant with her first child, she found out that the baby had Down’s syndrome. Upon receiving the diagnosis, she says she was shocked at the heavy hints that she should terminate the pregnancy, and outdated information made available. For Beth and her husband Stephen, both Christians, the next months were a struggle, emotionally and spiritually. At one point, Beth prayed that if she was unable to cope with a baby with Down’s syndrome, God would take it away. But then things were to change for the Ball family, and several times. Alongside Beth and Stephen, Mike hears from Dr Francis Hickey, an expert in Down’s syndrome, Michelle Sie Witten, President of the Global Down Syndrome Foundation, their Pastor Bill Cahoun, and the family of Jack Holm, a young man with Down’s syndrome who inspired them to re-imagine the future. Producer: Paul Arnold (Photo: DNA helix illustration. Credit: Getty Images)
3/5/202126 minutes, 28 seconds
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The Right Thing: Saving the man who shot me

Mike Wooldridge tells the story of Rais Bhuiyan, who In his 20s, traded a job in the Bangladeshi Air Force for a life in the US. He was working at a petrol station. A man with baseball cap walked in and pointed a double-barrelled shotgun at him. Rais offered all the money in the till to him, but the attacker asked him where he was from. Rais was confused, and said ‘Excuse me?’, but as he spoke, he was shot. He said it felt like a million bees stinging his face. He fell to the floor and started reciting from the Koran, begging God not to take him that day. White supremacist Mark Stroman’s attack left Bhuiyan partially blind, and two other men died during Stroman’s killing spree. In court Stroman said he had intended to target Muslims in revenge for the 9/11 attacks. Stroman was found guilty and received the death penalty, but Bhuiyan forgave his attacker and campaigned against the execution, saying that his faith told him that saving one life was like saving the whole of mankind. As well as Rais, we hear from his friends, those who worked alongside him to save Mark Stroman, and the brother-in-law of one of the other victims, Waqar Hussein. (Photo: Rais Bhuiyan. Credit: WFFA ABC Channel 8, Dallas)
2/26/202127 minutes, 32 seconds
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Three months to save my son's life

Veer is four years old. He has a genetic disorder called Fanconi Anaemia affecting his bone marrow. In 2019, his parents were told they would need to find a lifesaving stem cell donor for him. Doctors estimated that Veer could expect to live for between two to five years before needing a transplant, depending on how quickly his bone marrow depletes. However, after one of Veer’s recent general check-ups, the Doctors said things were deteriorating faster than expected and Veer was only three to six months from needing the transplant. The challenge is to get people to register. Currently, only 2% of the UK’s population are stem cell donors. A donor could come from anywhere around the world but misconceptions about becoming a donor means registrants are low. In the end, all it involves is a procedure similar to giving blood. Rajeev Gupta follows Veer’s parents as they dramatically ramp up efforts to save their son's life. In this emotional story, we get to know the charming little Veer and his family as they battle limitations placed by the coronavirus pandemic to try and find a match for him. Rajeev hears how Veer’s mum, Kirpa and dad, Nirav have increasingly turned to their Jain faith to help deal with the emotional traumas placed upon the family. Kirpa believes their faith inevitably guides them through this and will help Veer find his match. With exclusive access, this programme follows Veer and his family to what could be a joyous or equally heart wrenching conclusion. Presenter/producer: Rajeev Gupta (Photo: Veer. Credit:
2/5/202126 minutes, 29 seconds
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Malta: The island where abortion is a crime

Malta is the last country in Europe to still criminalise abortion. A majority Catholic country, prior to Covid-19 Malta was due a visit from the Pope. While a pro-choice movement is increasingly emerging in the country, the Maltese political sphere on virtually all sides is anti-abortion. Doctors for Choice, a group of pro-choice medical professionals, was set up last year and they have received major criticism in the country – with hundreds of doctors writing a letter in response in support of what they call pro-life laws and treatments. We speak to the doctors and activists trying to prompt debate in a country that has historically avoided it – and why anti-abortion politicians and doctors are proud that Malta is, as they see it, Europe’s defender of Catholic values. Producer/presenter: Sophia Smith Galer
1/8/202127 minutes, 4 seconds
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To Santa from Shanghai

In the far north of Finland, 6km south of the Artic Circle, the town of Rovaniemi is the “official home" of Santa Claus - the location where any letter addressed to Santa (over 500,000 every year) will arrive. St Nicholas may have roots in 3rd Century Turkey - but this one-time logging town is now the centre of a vast Santa industry. In 2019, more than half a million people came to Rovaniemi’s Santa Village – including 60,000 from China. Dignitaries such as Chinese President Xi Jinping have also made a pilgrimage to the home of the world’s most identifiable, pan-cultural, pan-faith icon. This year, though, things are different. Santa’s village lies eerily quiet due to Covid-19. All focus – and hope – lies on his official Post Office, and the letters that continue to stream through the door from children – and adults – across the world. Producer Steven Rajam tells the story of the global Santa tourism boom, the myths, fantasies and traditions that Santa represents across different cultures. Contributors include writer on Christmas and biographer of Santa Claus, Gerry Bowler; historian Martin Johnes; expert on China and religion, Fenggang Yang; travel agency chief Chao Tang; and supervisor at Santa’s official post office, Katja Tervonen, who details how the hundreds of letters received every year give a unique insight into the thoughts and emotions of children around the world. (Photo: Driver POV of sleigh ride in thick snow and bright sunshine in Rovaniemi. Credit: Lars Ley)
12/25/202027 minutes, 50 seconds
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Black Jesus

The identity and colour of Jesus – and why it matters - has taken on a new significance in this year of protest and change. Seeing Jesus as a darker skinned Palestinian Jew rather than blonde European is both historically accurate and theologically important, but it’s not a new idea. James Cone, the influential US theologian released ‘A Black Theology of Liberation’ 50 years ago this year – and formally developed a radical new way of exploring the message of Christianity. While people often say it’s a ‘white man’s religion’, Cone emphasised Jesus’ identity as black, on the side of the oppressed, and Christianity as a religion of liberation. Robert Beckford, one of the UK’s prominent black theologians, wants to explore the impact Black Theology has had, the implications for the church and whether seeing Jesus as black is having a revival due to the influence of black lives matter. In this programme Robert speaks to key theologians who studied under Cone; Professor Dwight Hopkins and the Very Reverend Kelly Brown Douglas about the social context and significance of Cone’s work. He hears from Rev Otis Moss III from a Chicago based church which lives out black theology, and Pastor Jonathan Jackson in the UK. Robert goes on to explore how young Christians are readdressing Jesus’ identity in the UK with Chine McDonald and has a discussion about embracing the Black Jesus with Clare Williams, Shermara Fletcher and Joel Brown. Plus he’ll hear from American artist and iconographer Mark Doox about the depiction of a black Christ in Christian art. Producer: Miriam Williamson (Picture: ‘The Holy Face' by Mark Doox)
12/18/202027 minutes, 26 seconds
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Jonestown: From socialism to slaughter - Part two

In 1978, over 900 US citizens died at Jonestown, a remote settlement in Guyana. The vast majority were members of a community run by the charismatic Rev Jim Jones, taking their own lives with poison under armed guard on his orders. But how did a church known for racial integration and practical help for the poor come to such a destructive end? How could one man’s increasing paranoia have driven so many people, who had built a mission community from nothing in four years, into a seemingly pointless sacrifice? In this second and final programme, Erin Martin – who herself grew up in a controlling religious group – hears from ex-members of Peoples Temple who explain how steadily increasing isolation made it so hard to leave the organisation. Vera Washington describes how she and seven others had to accelerate their escape plan when a leadership spy heard of it, and Jordan Vilchez relates how a faked assassination attempt on Jim Jones was used to reinforce their sense of threat from outside. The move to the Guyanese jungle meant escape was almost impossible - Jim Jones’ son, Stephan, and a few others survived because they were on a visit to the capital, Georgetown. But could Jonestown have had a future? Tim Carter imagined paved streets and seeing his grandchildren there. And John Cobb still feels that if he hadn’t been in Georgetown with Stephan on November 8th, 1978, he could have prevented what was, before 9/11, the largest intentional loss of civilian lives in American history. Producer: Paul Arnold (Photo:Main entrance to Jonestown, with welcome sign over the road. The sign reads Welcome to Jonestown, on the top line; the next line reads Peoples Temple Agricultural Project, May 1978. Credit Jon Moore/The Jonestown Institute).
12/11/202026 minutes, 27 seconds
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Jonestown: From socialism to slaughter - Part one

In 1978, over 900 US citizens died at Jonestown, a remote settlement in Guyana. The vast majority were members of a community run by the charismatic Rev Jim Jones, taking their own lives under armed guard on his orders. But how did a church known for racial integration and practical help for the poor come to such a destructive end? How could one man’s increasing paranoia have driven so many people, who had built a mission community from nothing in four years, into a seemingly pointless sacrifice? In these programmes, Erin Martin – who herself grew up in a religious group that exercised strong control over its members – hears from survivors of what’s become known as the Jonestown Massacre, an event that captivated and horrified the US and international media. Contributors include Stephan Jones, son of the Rev Jim Jones; Vera Washington, for whom Peoples Temple was “a wonderful, warm family” before it all went wrong; Jordan Vilchez, who at 16 already belonged to Jones’ inner circle; John Cobb, Leslie Wagner-Wilson, Tim Carter and Mike Cartmell, who each lost several family members in Jonestown; and Fielding M McGehee III, Temple archivist and Research Director at the Alternative Considerations of Jonestown website. Between them, they reflect on the attraction of Peoples Temple, trace the road that ended with the destruction of the Jonestown community, and explain how they escaped with their lives. And they try to answer one crucial question: what could have led an idealistic group of community-minded people to such destruction? Producer: Paul Arnold (Photo:The local tourist office has placed signs to mark the site of Jonestown, Guyana. Credit: Getty Images)
12/4/202027 minutes, 30 seconds
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The Canadian Uighurs

Experts say China has detained as many as one million Uighurs and Muslims in "re-education" camps in Xinjiang province. Survivors have shared stories of countless alleged abuses including mass surveillance, forced labour and forced sterilization. Uighur activist Rukiye Turdush said she feels helpless in Canada knowing Uighurs back home are being forced to learn Chinese, renounce their faith and abandon their culture. "We said never again after World War Two, but it's happening again in the 21st century in China." In this programme, reporter Idil Mussa meets Canadian Uighurs, like Turdush, to hear their stories. She learns that the Chinese state has tried to stop all contact with their families, how the Canadian Uighur community suffers from a collective guilt knowing their loved ones are suffering and how Toronto has become a hive of activism to raise awareness of their plight. (Picture: Rukiye Turdush. Credit: Idil Mussa/BBC)
11/27/202027 minutes, 19 seconds
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Converts amongst the conflict in Belarus

Protests against the Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko have carried on for months. 80% of the country calls themselves Orthodox Christian. The church has stood squarely behind their President but not all of the faithful agree with them. Alina Isachenka is from Belarus and speaks to some of the Orthodox worshippers who have converted and become Catholic. The church has become a symbol of resistance and a haven for reformers. Why have these converts stepped away from the official church and how big a decision was it to leave the church that’s been in their blood for generations? Alina meets the converts and clergy who have switched their allegiance to a church they once saw as an enemy The Catholic Church has become the conscience of the anti-Lukashenko movement; Alina speaks to the symbolic head of the churches resistance, now exiled in Poland, Archbishop Tadeush Kondrusevich about how Catholic churches have opened their doors, literally in many cases, to Orthodox church goers. Presenter Alina Isachenka (Photo: Women form a human chain outside the Catholic Church of Saints Simon and Helena to protest against police violence during opposition rallies against the 2020 presidential election results. Credit: Sergei Gapon/AFP)
11/20/202027 minutes, 48 seconds
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Catholic women and the US elections

As the campaign in the 2020 US Election went on it became clearer that America’s Catholics were crucial to the result. Here are two candidates, the Democrat Joe Biden, a practising Catholic, who represents a social justice interpretation of the faith, and the Republican, Donald Trump, with who now describes himself as ‘a non-denominational Christian’ but who appeals to the socially conservative Catholic pro-life agenda. It is a fascinating dynamic. The rival campaigns targeted Catholics with fervent appeals to vote based on faith, especially on the issue of abortion. After a tense week, Joe Biden was called, and declared the next president of the United States, only the second Catholic to hold the presidency. As he steps up to lead, he faces the challenge of a divided America and it may take a lot more than just words to heal, and an awful lot of faith to fix the wounds inflicted by both sides. Angela Davis, in Minnesota, brings together four Catholic women across the US, to discuss issues that affected their vote, such as right to abortion and racism. Did they vote on faith or policy? In a divided America, what does the Catholic faith tell us about how democrats and republicans can now come together and heal? Presented by: Angela Davis Produced by: Louise Clarke-Rowbotham Photo: A pile of I voted stickers, November 2020 / Credit: Aimee Dilger/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images.
11/13/202028 minutes, 28 seconds
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The living water

Elizabeth Alker loves to feel the cold water as she slides into it from the river bank or steps nervously from the lake side. She is a Christian, used to the euphoric feeling that worship also brings her, and swimming in the open gives her a similar, immersive sensation - as soon as she leaves the water she immediately craves it again. She sets outs to find out why so many people have that same craving, discovering tranquility and spirituality in the icy water. From there she moves on to consider the spiritual nature of water itself. Right across the world’s faiths water represents life, fertility, healing and purity. It has been used in rituals for thousands of years, rivers are sacred, baptisms with water symbolises the introduction of children to their faith Elizabeth explores why water is so important in the lives of believers, wild swimmers and the millions around the world whose spiritual thirst is quenched by its power. She goes swimming with Helen Pidd of The Guardian newspaper who first introduced her to swimming outdoors, and Scottish singer Julie Fowlis who explains how the stories and myths surrounding water make their way into Gaelic music. Professor Bron Taylor, author of ‘Dark Green Religion’ discusses the place of water in organised religion - as well as his own connection with the ocean having speak years as a coast guard. Izumi Hasegawa describes the place of water in Shinto, and Ruth Fitzmaurice, author of ‘I Found My Tribe’, describes how swimming in the ocean helped her profoundly through the illness and death of her beloved husband Simon. Why is water so important in the lives of believers, wild swimmers and the millions around the world whose spiritual thirst is quenched by its power. Producer: Geoff Bird Presenter: Elizabeth Alker (Photo: Two people watch someone swimming in the water. Credit: Richard Lautens/Toronto Star/Getty Images)
10/30/202026 minutes, 28 seconds
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Is this Egypt’s #MeToo moment?

Egypt is currently in the midst of a growing movement calling out the culture of sexual assault that’s rife in the country. A UN study showed 99.3% of Egyptian women have experienced sexual harassment or violence, and although women’s rights activists have been campaigning for years, there continues to be victim blaming surrounding women and a lack of prosecutions. However, a recent high profile case of one man who allegedly sexually assaulted and blackmailed several women was brought to the public’s attention due to an Instagram account called Assault Police which shared victim’s testimonies. It’s encouraged more women to speak out about their own experiences. And significantly, the religious authority, the Al Azhar Mosque published guidelines against assault, specifically stating what women wear is not an excuse. Salma El-Wardany, a UK based Muslim writer and poet, was born in Egypt and wants to uncover what impact this largely online movement is having. Will it create a lasting change in Egyptian society and result in prosecutions? Salma will talk to the key women fighting for change, and the male allies using their platform to speak out. She’ll hear from Nadeen Ashraf, the young woman behind Assault Police, and Sabah Khodir who’s offering practical support and guidance for victims. Plus she’ll speak to Omar Samra a well-known adventurer who’s encouraging men to take responsibility for their actions. She’ll hear from Human Rights Watch about their concerns over women’s rights in the country, and she’ll speak to Egyptian American journalist Mona Eltahawy about her hopes for a feminist revolution. Producer: Miriam Williamson (Picture: Egyptian women hold signs during a protest against sexual harassment in Cairo, Egypt, June 2014 / Credit: Ahmed Ismail/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
10/23/202028 minutes, 12 seconds
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Russia's persecuted Jehovah’s Witnesses

There are hundreds of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia who are being prosecuted for their faith. Some of them say they have been tortured and their testimonies were never investigated. Others have to hide their prayers as they fear the secret services are spying on them through undercover agents. The wave of arrests started in 2017 after the Russian Supreme Court declared Jehovah’s Witnesses organisation as extremist and banned all Jehovah’s Witnesses registered groups throughout the country. Jehovah’s Witnesses renounce violence and do not possess arms, yet criminal cases against them claim they possess extremist materials and peaceful worship has been raided by armed police. This programme will follow some of the most dramatic stories told by Jehovah’s Witnesses under prosecution and their family members. Among them is the story of imprisoned man Feliks as told by his wife Zhenya. Upon arrival to his colony Feliks had suffered such an atrocious beating that he spent months recovering in a prison hospital. In May this year he was stripped of his Russian citizenship and became the first Jehovah’s Witness forced into statelessness. We will also hear from Jehovah’s Witnesses who aren’t prosecuted but live in constant expectation of being disturbed by police. All of them will share how their faiths help them to survive those dark days and how they continue to worship despite being scared and intimidated. Presenter: Anastasia Gulubeva Producer: Tatyana Movshevich (Picture: Feliks Makhammadiev /Credit:
10/16/202028 minutes, 41 seconds
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Testifying against a Neo-Nazi

On the 9th of October, 2019, Mollie S. a Baltimore native, was observing the holiest day of the Jewish calendar, Yom Kippur in the city of Halle, Germany. She decided to take a short break and go for a walk during the proceedings. Moments later a then 27 year old neo-Nazi named Stephan Balliet attempted to bomb the Synagogue and later on a Kebab Shop. Mollie returned to the Synagogue shortly after and saw a body wrapped on the street outside. On this day, Amie Liebowitz received an unexpected text from her friend Mollie. Mollie lives in Berlin and messaged her to say that she was a victim of the attack but was okay and looked after. Mollie and Amie kept in contact. They had always been close friends but Amie wasn't aware of the full extent to which Mollie had been affected and was diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PSTD). In August 2020, Mollie asked Amie if she would be her support person as she testifies against the neo-Nazi in Magdeburg, Germany. From catching the train in Berlin together to the court proceedings, practicing her testimony the night before and retracing her steps in Halle, these two friends have a honest discussion about what it's like living with trauma and standing up to someone who wants to kill you because of your faith. Executive Producer: Rajeev Gupta (Picture: Damaged entrance door to the synagogue in Halle (Saale),Germany, July 2020 / Credit: JENS SCHLUETER/AFP via Getty Images)
10/9/202027 minutes, 38 seconds
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The US Elections: A Faith Perspective

Religiosity has always been a key factor of who takes charge in the White House. US presidents have been invoking faith and God ever since George Washington expressed his “fervent pleas to this Almighty Being who rules the universe” in his 1789 inaugural address. This year, more than ever eyes are on who the religious voting banks will decide as their candidate of choice for the upcoming Presidential election. Does Trump remain the choice of evangelicals or has some of his statements and behaviour proved a turn off? And will Biden’s Catholic faith help him or do his liberal values on topics such as abortion put him out of favour. In the programme journalist Colm Flynn speaks to religious people across the United States to get a sense of the role faith will play in determining who will become the next President of the United States. Presenter & Producer: Colm Flynn.
10/2/202026 minutes, 29 seconds
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Father Joe

Just over a year ago, 29 year old Lyra McKee was shot dead in Northern Ireland. The day after she was murdered, the parish priest in the part of Londonderry where she was shot was angry and deeply upset, and he spoke out against those who pulled the trigger. Father Joe Gormley knew it could be dangerous to be so vocal but nevertheless he said: "Our parish is full of so many good people and these people come into our area and use us to carry out such vile acts. How dare they. How dare they." "They have done it in this Holy Week. They have done it in a way that is totally, totally anti-Gospel and literally anti-Christ." Father Gormley was right. Speaking publicly took its toll. He felt at risk from groups like the New IRA and Saoradh, and fellow clergy urged him to watch it. However Father Gormley hasn't stopped meditating on Lyra's death. Now he feels it's safer to tell the story of what it's like to serve parishioners in a housing estate which has been at the heart of the sectarian conflict for so long. Presented by Siobhann Tighe. (Image: Father Gormley / Credit: BBC)
9/24/202026 minutes, 29 seconds
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The lives of female Qur'an reciters

Around the world, there are differing attitudes to recitation of the Qur'an and the female voice in Islam. For some, female reciters should be restricted to female-only spaces, reciting verses in female prayer circles or Islamic lectures, for fear that the voice in public arenas with mixed audiences can bring about sin. But in many cultures it is permissible and encouraged to platform female reciters, and there is growing appetite from women online to bring more women into the field. Nusaiba Mohammad Timol is one reciter who grew up between Saudi Arabia and the UK. Never hearing a female reciter perform publicly during her childhood, she was the first winner of Islam Channel's national Qiraat (recitation) competition in 2006 and has gone onto recite publicly as well as teach both men and women how to recite. But her reception has not been completely positive - and a record deal was scuppered when investors in Egypt said it was not appropriate to sign a woman. We hear from Madinah Javed and Maryam Amir, two reciters across the Atlantic from each other who are using Instagram to raise awareness about female recitation and scholarship, and from some of the women that they have inspired. Producer/presenter: Sophia Smith Galer (Photo credit: BBC/Emily MacInnes)
9/18/202026 minutes, 28 seconds
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Faith versus the virus: Pakistan’s struggle

Pakistan’s relationship with religion is the most distinct element of its identity. Be it politics or any other aspect of social & cultural life, religion is the main guiding force. The country was created in the name of Islam almost a quarter century ago, where the clergy still enjoys the tremendous power. Even during the pandemic, when the holiest mosques & shrines in Saudi Arabia, Iran & Turkey were closed, the clerics in Pakistan refused to shut down the mosques in Ramadan. The former cricketer Imran Khan’s government tried and failed to stop annual gathering of “Raiwind Tableeghi Jamat” a global Muslim missionary movement in the Eastern city of Lahore, which is thought to have resulted in transmitting the first corona virus case to the Middle East. And now, weeks before Eid-ul-Adha, cattle markets have sprung up in and around cities, where people in large numbers are gathering to buy animals for sacrifice. This program gives a picture of a struggle between science and faith in Pakistan. How the voices of doctors and paramedics were lost in religious rhetoric and how the government has been repeatedly backing down under the pressure from the religious leaders. Presented by: Shumaila Jaffery (Image: Muslim devotees offer prayers for the Eid al-Adha, at a mosque in Rawalpindi, Pakinstan on August 1, 2020. / Credit: FAROOQ NAEEM/AFP via Getty Images)
9/4/202026 minutes, 28 seconds
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Fruit of thy womb

In many religions child bearing is revered. Giving birth can be a way of honouring your deity and strengthening your community. In contrast, infertility can be seen as a punishment. So what impact does that have on the faith of women who find they’re unable, or unwilling, to conceive? This Heart and Soul hears how this experience has transformed the spiritual lives of four different women - Christian, a Muslim, a Buddhist and a Jew. The Fruit of Thy Womb is produced by Julia Paul.
8/28/202027 minutes, 31 seconds
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Will God protect me?

What does it mean to ask "God to keep you safe" in the time of a pandemic? What is the meaning and scope of divine protection? The belief in divine protection is a significant feature of the Christian response to the pandemic particularly within some of the African and Caribbean Churches in the UK. On the one hand, all churches offered prayers for divine protection over individuals and the nation. On the other, some Christian groups, went further than offering prayers and promoting the sale of special protection kits, "guaranteed to ward off Corona Virus." Tragically, some believers in Britain, believing God is protecting them, didn't seek medical help when they were sick and passed away. In this programme, Professor Robert Beckford sets out to discover the meaning of 'divine protection' within his own Pentecostal Christian tradition. Producer: Rajeev Gupta
8/21/202027 minutes, 54 seconds
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Zoroastrianism and death

By day Dr Jamasp JamaspAsa, works in the UK as a cancer surgeon, but now, due to the passing of his father he has a new role, the High Priest of the Zoroastrian faith in a Mumbai Fire Temple. Lipika Pelham meets the High Priest as Zoroastrians, or Parsees, celebrate the most auspicious days in their calendar. The “All Souls Festival” is when they believe ancestors visit them. She is curious whether his medical skills as a doctor make him a 'holy warrior', fighting to stop the work of evil, by keeping his patients alive. Far from being just a sombre memorial of the dead, “Mukhtad” is a festive occasion. With a feast of consecrated food, flowers, and lamps that are constantly kept alight, Zoroastrians welcome the “farohars”, the spirits of dead relatives, who come to help the living to celebrate life, which is the work of God, against the evils of death. Lipika will explore the faith’s most distinguishing feature, which is the religious duty of every Zoroastrian to prolong and focus on life, even at the time of death. Producer and Presenter: Lipika Pelham
8/14/202027 minutes, 59 seconds
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Will coronavirus change my faith?

Community is one of main features of religion - but coronavirus has disrupted that. Religious institutions are going through significant changes in response to the coronavirus. But what of these changes will remain and what will organised religion look like post pandemic? Could the virus change the future of worship? Sodaba Haidare looks at how different faiths will change post pandemic and asks is there still a place for religious buildings and congregational prayer? Produced by: Athar Ahmed and Nalini Sivathasan Executive Producer: Rajeev Gupta (Image: Karanjee Singh prepares for his first visit to his Sikh Gurdwara since the Coronavirus meant it had to close / Credit: BBC)
8/7/202026 minutes, 29 seconds
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Burying the dead in New York City

New York funeral director Clive Anderson has been struggling to keep up the sheer volume of new Coronavirus cases coming to his small funeral home in Pelham, New York. Normally he would average four funerals a week, now he is doing six a day. On the front line, the work has taken a toll on Clive. He broke down recently after a family called him from miles away that had lost a grandmother and none of the eleven funeral homes in their area could help them. So Clive drove for almost two hours to collect the body. A man of strong faith, Clive only recently converted to the Catholic faith, and his baptism was scheduled for Easter. That, of course, was cancelled and over the phone, a monsignor told Clive he was now 'Baptised by desire', a term where a person can receive the fruits of baptism even if they have not had the official ceremony. This recent conversion couldn't have come at a more appropriate time in Clive's life, for years he has been struggling with faith and religion. He grew up in a home-based religious movement which has no official name but is nicknamed the 'Two by Twos' in the south of Ireland. This controversial group has been the subject of documentaries around the world, with many calling it a cult. After his father died when he was 15, Clive's heart was set on becoming a funeral director. In this programme we will hear Clive talk at his home about growing up in the mysterious 'Two by Twos' and how that group shaped his view on religion and on the world. We visit his funeral home in Pelham to witness the huge number of people coming through as a result of the Coronavirus. We take a fishing trip with Clive on a lake in upstate New York, away from his funeral home, to talk about how he copes with the very difficult work that he does, and how his newfound faith in Catholicism, has brought him strength and peace in these extraordinary times.
7/31/202026 minutes, 30 seconds
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Vipassana: 240 hours of silence

Vipassana, which means to see things as they really are, is one of India's most ancient techniques of meditation. It was taught by the Buddha more than 2,500 years ago as a universal remedy for universal ills. The practice died out in India, but survived in Burma, and is now a growing movement around the world. To learn the technique students complete a 10-day silent retreat, which includes 10 hours of daily meditation. There is no eye contact, no communication, no exercise, no reading or writing, no technology. No distraction from the journey inwards. They must try to overcome the habit of reacting to sensation. By doing so, over 10 days students train themselves to stop reacting to the vicissitudes of life and experience the interconnectedness of all living things. It is notoriously difficult, but what insights does it afford? What difficulties, both physical and emotional, are faced along the way? We hear the experiences of people who have made it through 240 hours of silence. Vipassana was popularised by S.N. Goenka, who learnt the technique in Burma from his teacher, Sayagyi U Ba Khin, and in 1969 travelled to India to conduct the first Vipassana course in this tradition outside Burma. There are now around 200 Vipassana meditation centres around the world, attracting people from all walks of life. The course is free, and non-sectarian. Producer: Eve Streeter (Photo credit: Marc Sethi)
7/24/202027 minutes, 32 seconds
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The divinity of Haile Selassie

How did the Ethiopian King, Haile Selassie - who lived a life of luxury whilst his country suffered a deep famine - become the god for the Rastafari community? To millions he was a leader, to many others he was an oppressor, but to a small worldwide community known as the Rastafari he is divine and the reincarnation of Jesus Christ. Now, 70 years after Haile Selassie was crowned as leader of Ethiopia, Dr Robert Beckford explores the religious, political and social dynamic that propelled a whole community to worship Selassie as a living god. He investigates the controversy in Ethiopia about Salassie’s godly status leading to recent destruction of a monuments of him and as the Rastafari community grapples with falling numbers, Beckford meets the man trying to re-energise the religion and campaigning to have Selassie made a saint in the Ethiopian Church. But for many Rastafarians, bestowing sainthood on their spiritual leader won’t change anything. He is, to them, simply the messiah. But how did this adoration come to be? Image: His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie I, Emperor of Ethiopia (Credit: BBC)
7/17/202026 minutes, 29 seconds
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The pastor and the prime minister

When Gábor Iványi was a young Protestant minister back in the 1970s standing up to Hungary’s totalitarian Communist regime he promised to stop shaving as a sign of protest. Communism is long gone in Hungary but Ivanyi’s beard keeps getting longer. He fought the Communists side by side with the student leader Victor Orban. He supported Orban and even accompanied him spiritually. Ivanyi is godfather to Orban’s first two children and performed the religious wedding ceremony for Orban. But now Ivanyi has become the prime minister’s most redoubtable opponent. For Ivanyi and some other young Hungarian Christians, Orban’s Christianity means no more than ‘white Christian Europe’. Orban has taken away the state subsidy to Ivanyi’s church. The Methodist, who runs a shelter for the homeless, gypsies and migrants, was refused access to refugees when he tried to bring them food. Other Christians publicly criticise Hungary’s interpretation of Christianity. Lutheran blogger Dóra Laborczih edits an independent blog called Christian Culture which attacks the intrusion of right-wing populism into Hungary’s religious life. Through Ivanyi and Dora we hear how Christians in Hungary are divided on issues such as immigration and we hear from Christians who support Orban and his policies. John Laurenson travels to Hungary where a bearded pastor with a house full of refugees and a prime minister who has just won his third consecutive general election victory are at war over the meaning of Christianity. Image: Viktor Orban (Credit: Zoltan Mathe/EPA)
7/13/202028 minutes, 32 seconds
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USA: A discussion about race

In this special American Impendence day program, presenter Martin Bashir brings together Ilyasah Shabbaz - the third daughter of Malcolm X, Joshua DuBois - President Obama's former spiritual advisor and Lama Rod Owens - a Buddhist Black radical thinker to discuss the nature of the Black Lives Matter movement. They discuss the objectives and methods of the movement and interrogate if the use of violence is a necessary evil in search of equality. The three guests draw upon their own respected faith traditions as well as the experience of being African American in modern day America to share their views on how best to achieve equal rights. Presented by Martin Bashir Produced by Rajeev Gupta (Photo: Black Lives Matter protest, June 2020. Credit: Jo Holland/BBC)
7/3/202026 minutes, 47 seconds
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The paddle-out

The sight of dozens of surfers circled together and floating beyond the breakwater will always mean one thing - that another surfer has died. A paddle-out is a way of honouring someone who’s had a love for the ocean. It’s a practice which has become entwined with surf’s cherished culture. On the coast of Cornwall we meet a gathering of surfers who have come to pay homage to their friend Riccardo, who has recently died from cancer. We join them as they prepare to paddle out with flowers around their necks. They join hands in the water and share stories, memories and songs. Big wave rider Clyde Aikau, brother to legendary surfer Eddie Aikau, describes the first ever paddle out in 1978, when his brother was lost at sea and drowned. After Eddie died, thousands of people gathered to paddle out from his favourite surf spot at Waimea Bay to celebrate him. It was a defining moment, and surfers around the world still paddle out to mark the anniversary of Eddie’s death each year. In Cape Town, we also hear the voice of Mikhail Thompson, a surfer and mentor who has administered a number of paddle-out ceremonies during his lifetime. He describes the profoundly spiritual experience of surfing waves, and how losing someone from the close-knit surfer community leaves a void. And we hear him reflect on a special moment in the paddle-out ceremony, when the whole party erupts in hoots and cheers, splashing the water and throwing flowers into the air. Producer: Sarah Cuddon Image: Riccardo (Credit: Salvador) and Eddie Aikau (Courtesy of the Eddie Aikau Foundation, Credit: David Bettencourt)
6/26/202027 minutes, 38 seconds
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Redemption in recycling

In Philadelphia, husband and wife George and Mimi Limbach sit down in an old warehouse with 15 men who have recently been released from prison. Surrounding them are hundreds of old computers, which these former inmates will soon recycle as part of a rehabilitation programme underpinned by the couples Christian faith. They feel by offering these former offenders work they are keeping true to values such as forgiveness, love and second chances. “No one is here to judge. We are all on the same level,” George tells the young men. In this programme, Colm Flynn travels to the computer recycling centre in a disadvantaged neighbourhood in Philadelphia to meet some of the former inmates who are building a better future "one computer tower at a time." We hear their raw stories, and hear why George and Mimi feel these people deserve a chance despite their past crimes. Presenter: Colm Flynn
6/19/202026 minutes, 43 seconds
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Moving Forward

In this final programme of a special Heart and Soul series for the BBC World Service, the journalist John McCarthy brings back together those who have been sharing reflections and insights on faith during the Coronavirus crisis. We hear how they’re coping now. How have their attitudes to rituals, compassion, solitude and community, changed in the last six weeks? What are their personal thoughts on moving forward, and through, this pandemic, now that many countries have lifted, or have left, lockdown? We’ll hear how personal faith has been challenged, changed or strengthened during the dark days of Covid-19. Presenter: John McCarthy Producer: Olive Clancy
6/12/202027 minutes, 26 seconds
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A man finds himself by chance in the country he fled as a political prisoner as the virus spreads and he is trapped. An atheist looking for peace in lockdown. A writer looking for a way to stay united with her community. Very different people, with very different beliefs, united in prayer. In a special Heart and Soul series for the BBC World Service, amidst the Coronavirus pandemic, the journalist John McCarthy brings together reflections from people of faith around the world. In this fifth programme, John hears how people are reaching for prayer at this time - in an age old response to such a crisis. Prayer can be a repeated phrase, a daily ritual, a casual conversation or a cry for help and it is not just people of conventional faith who are doing it. Sanderson Jones does not believe in God, but the stand-up comedian says he has found something akin to prayer whilst pushing his son in a buggy in his allotted daily exercise. Mario Aguilar is a hermit who lives a life of quiet contemplation. But he was on a short visit in his native Chile when lockdown began. Order, discipline and simple prayer have carried him through what he admits has been a tough time. As the world faces the prospect of many months of lockdown we hear how prayer and meditation can bring comfort and calm. Presenter: John McCarthy Producer: Olive Clancy
6/5/202027 minutes, 26 seconds
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In this fourth programme of a special Heart and Soul series for the BBC World Service, amidst a global pandemic of Coronavirus, the journalist John McCarthy hears how the notion of community has changed as many people continue to be denied the chance to gather for religious practice. Across the world the way people live their daily lives has radically altered. What new communities are emerging? Whether online, in our family or households, or simply a new relationship with neighbours, we hear reflections on how faith communities are changing and perhaps becoming deeper in their spiritual practice during this global crisis. While people are keeping their distance, a sense of community is growing. People of faith and no faith are reaching out to support others. There seems to be an urge to share something more profound than just being together physically or clapping for nurses and doctors. Hiba Siddiqi works for the Islamic Relief charity in Pakistan; Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani is an award winning writer who lives in Abuja, Nigeria, Reverend Julian DeShazier is in Chicago; Tarunjit Singh Buttalia is a science professor, originally from India but now living in Ohio, USA; Sister Rachel Denton has led a life of quiet prayer alone for decades and Sanderson Jones used to be a stand up comedian. He doesn’t believe in God, but he does believe in community. So much so, he set up an alternative Sunday Assembly. Presented by John McCarthy Produced by Olive Clancy
5/29/202027 minutes, 20 seconds
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In a special Heart and Soul series for the BBC World Service, amidst a global pandemic of Coronavirus, the journalist John McCarthy brings together reflections from people of faith around the world. In this third programme, John hears how isolation and solitude can be an opportunity to develop a deeper spiritual practice. When the mind throws up challenges – doubt, fear – what comfort and opportunities does faith provide? Solitude is often sought after and even craved by many people of faith, but the chance to share the energy of worship with others enhances their closeness to their deity. The Buddhist devotional dancer Prumsodun Ok, has to step back from his busy teaching schedule in Cambodia but he sees this as a chance to slow down and re-connect with the spiritual aspect of his dance. We hear from round the world solo rower Roz Savage who describes herself as having faith rather than a religion and a pastor who’s new to solitude but thinks he might like it. Reverend Julian DeShazier works at the busy multicultural University Church in Chicago, USA where he is also an advocate for his community. He’s also an Emmy award winning musician and songwriter who goes by the name of J.Kwest . He’s turned to bible stories to help him through lockdown. As the world faces the prospect of many months of lockdown we hear how faith and religion can bring comfort and succour to those living in solitude. Presenter: John McCarthy Producer: Olive Clancy
5/22/202027 minutes, 43 seconds
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As coronavirus crisis unfolds, with its confusion and heartbreak, John McCarthy brings together reflections from people around the world. In this programme he hears stories of compassion. Most religions teach that compassion is what allows us to understand the suffering of others, but you need no faith to give or receive it. Compassion nurtures kindness and charity, both sorely needed now. We hear from Bernard Gabbott, an Anglican minister in rural Australia. His community has suffered years of drought. The rains have only recently arrived. And now they face further hardship as farm machinery and seeds coming from China are delayed due to the virus. How does he balance compassion for his community with the needs of his young family? The Sudan-raised novelist Leila Aboulela thought she would spend Ramadan this year with her mother and she looked forward particularly to the joy of breaking their fast together. Now her mother is instead completely isolated in Cairo. Kindness to others might be at the heart of all faiths, but it is not always practised. How can faith guide the conversations that need to be had with families as we all face the prospect of illness? Are there words to ease the fear of not being able to say goodbye intimately to a loved one? How do we show compassion to children or young people who see this as injustice and maybe even a sign that God has abandoned them? As we face the prospect of a long period of lockdown, could nurturing compassion mean the world emerges as a kinder place? Presenter: John McCarthy Producer: Olive Clancy
5/15/202027 minutes, 13 seconds
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Rituals are at the heart of many religions, they are vital to the practice of faith giving structure, comfort and focus. The best-selling Indian writer Amish Tripathi sees daily yoga practice as central to his Hindu faith. He loves the calm and balance it brings. But with the virus bringing fear of respiratory problems he newly appreciates the breathing techniques which ease anxiety. Miriam Camerini is an Italian trainee Rabbi who is stranded in Canada, unable to travel home. She is heartbroken to hear of sick friends, but comforted by new online connections with Jerusalem. And a Pastor used to non-stop cross-border travel to look after Mexican and US parishioners finds strength in bible passages he never had time to sit and study before. With much of the world in lockdown the rituals and sacraments of conventional religion are impossible. Journalist John McCarthy hears how people are finding new ways to live out their faith in retreat.
5/8/202027 minutes, 39 seconds
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Joshua Wong: Standing up to a superpower

Joshua Wong has been the poster boy of the Hong Kong democracy movement for over five years, despite being only 23 years old. An evangelical Christian, he continues to do what he sees as the right thing in his fight against Beijing’s influence, despite the personal hardship involved. Mike Wooldridge hears from Joshua, and about concerns in the Hong Kong church around the actions of some of his followers. (Photo: Joushua Wong)
5/1/202027 minutes, 31 seconds
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The inseparable twins

Senegalese twins Marieme and Ndeye were born sharing much of their bodies, and doctors advised that an attempt to separate them would be fatal for Marieme. But Marieme’s heart condition put both twins in danger. Mike Wooldridge hears from Ibrahima, now in the UK, who had to face an impossible dilemma - whether his daughters should be separated. (Photo: Ibrahima with Marieme and Ndeye)
4/24/202027 minutes, 45 seconds
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Faith in lockdown France

The Covid-19 pandemic has brought religious practice to a halt in much of the world. Religious leaders, a large part of whose life’s work is to get people to come to church, mosque or synagogue are urging them to stay away. The church, defined by Jesus as wherever people gather together in God’s name, has been suspended. The gestures that carry much of the meaning of the faith – for Christians, the exchange of the Pax Christi, for example, or the taking of Holy Communion – were banned in many countries even before the general population was ordered into isolation. Now, in lockdown France you are allowed to go to work (if you do not have the possibility of working from home), you can go and buy what you want at the supermarket, but you are not allowed to attend a funeral. But what is shaping into the most catastrophic pandemic of modern times is hitting a world that now has social media. Religious leaders, who may not have known their WhatsApp from their Facetime two weeks ago, are seizing social media as a lifeline. France is one of the worst hit countries in Europe and has the largest Muslim and Jewish populations in Europe. For Heart and Soul on the BBC World Service we hear how a community of St Martin priests who live together in a super-presbytery in the medieval market town of Nogent-le-Roi, a rabbi and an imam, are keeping worship alive as they struggle to minister to the faithful though the darkening days of the Coronavirus Crisis. Produced and presented by John Laurenson. (Photo: French Priests check camera for live Palm Sunday YouTube mass. Credit: BBC)
4/17/202027 minutes, 12 seconds
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The Tattooist of Jerusalem

"Every time I tattoo someone, I feel the links of faith, blood and ink in an unbroken chain of thousands of pilgrims, going back hundreds of years" - Wassim Razoouk, 'The Jerusalem Tattooist'. For some, it's a kind of baptism. To others, it's a very personal souvenir. For everyone, it's an indelible mark of pilgrimage to one of the holiest places on Earth: the Old City of Jerusalem. For more than 500 years, Wassim Razzouk's family have been tattooing the pilgrims to Jerusalem. In this edition of Heart and Soul, we'll be hearing his story and the stories of the people who visit his tattoo parlour in the Christian Quarter of the city. Razzouk Tattoo claims to be the only remaining traditional pilgrimage tattoo business in the world. Seven hundred years ago, according to family lore, the Razzouks began tattooing fellow Coptic Christians in Egypt. They continued the practice after moving to Jerusalem, eventually offering their services to Christians of all denominations. Wassim's customers are joining the ranks of innumerable Christian pilgrims to be permanently inked in Jerusalem since the 16th century. Today, almost all request religious designs, many featuring the Jerusalem Cross, a symbol of the Holy City and Holy Land first introduced in the 15th century by the Franciscan order. A tattoo is a very personal statement, and for some people, also a very profound one. Everyone has a different story, and while they're getting tattooed, we'll hear people explain the impact that Jerusalem has had on them, and their reasons for marking their pilgrimage with a tattoo they'll never forget. Wassim says: "People come to us to be part of the history and tradition of the Holy Land. I feel the weight of carrying on and preserving this holy tradition. We are its custodians." (Photo: Wassim Razoouk. Credit: BBC)
4/10/202027 minutes, 5 seconds
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Buddhist detox

Buddhist temple Wat Thamkrabok in Thailand has a worldwide reputation for its successful mix of ‘cold turkey’ and Buddhism in combating addiction. The treatment begins with a sacred Buddhist vow never to use drugs again. For five days, the ‘patients’ drink a strong herbal medicine that induces vomiting. No contact with the outside world is permitted. Through Buddhist teachings, the former addicts confront the bad habits that dominated their past lives and commit to building a life for themselves in the future that will not harm them or their loved ones. The Wat Thamkrabok treatment programme was founded by an extraordinary characte, Luangpaw Yaai, and her two nephews in response to the Thai government’s introduction of a ban on opium possession that left tens of thousands of Thai addicts in the agony of withdrawal. A Buddhist nun, she wore the robes of a monk and had been an addict herself. The majority of the patients are from Thailand, but drug addicts from all over the world come to Wat Thamkrabok. Sucheera Maguire is at the temple with addicts on the Wat Thamkrabok treatment programme. She talks to those in treatment, and the monks who kicked their drug habits at the temple and then converted to the Buddhist faith. Producer: Helen Lee Presenter: Sucheera Maguire (Photo: Buddha statues at Wat Thamkrabok, Thailand. Credit: BBC)
4/3/202027 minutes, 20 seconds
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The discussion

If you ask Cosmo the robot what faith he is, what does he answer? We’ll find out when we bring together young digital media users of different faiths to meet him at MediaCityUK at Salford in the UK. Sophia Smith-Galer has been exploring how digital technology is changing the ways we worship and her guests will give their thoughts on what she’s found during our #ReligionintheDigitalAge series, and what they think about the future of faith and technology. Presented by Sophia Smith-Galer Produced by Julia Paul
3/27/202026 minutes, 58 seconds
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Take me to VR church

Worshippers are gathering for a church service led by Pastor D.J Soto in Virginia in the USA. Many of them are at home or even in other countries. For DJ, this church is important for worshippers unable to attend a physical church, such as the disabled, the ostracised and the persecuted. VR technology is also teaching future generations about religious tolerance. Every year Jews and Holocaust survivors from across the world make a pilgrimage to Auschwitz in Poland. Alongside them is Karen Jungblut, director of research and documentation, from the Shoah Foundation, based at the University of Southern California, its mission to preserve the first-person accounts of 50,000 Holocaust survivors and other witnesses began with videotape. Now it's using 360 filming to capture the testimony of survivors in the landscape where it happened. Worship is often about the icons of your faith – and in Leicester in the UK we meet Sikh students as they encounter some of their religion’s most important artefacts for the first time – thanks to a VR headset, as a way of engaging young Sikhs and teaching non-Sikhs about the religion. But can immersing yourself get too, well, real? Hussein Kesvani, a Shi’a Muslim journalist who writes about the online experience of British Muslims, joins us to experience a virtual reality app that allows the user to relive the battle of Karbala, an instrumental moment in the Muslim faith. Is this visualisation a step too far? Presented by Sophia Smith-Galer Produced by Julia Paul
3/20/202026 minutes, 34 seconds
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Finding and losing my faith online

Digital journalist Sophia Smith-Galer hears from young faith influencers using social media to spread the word and meets an ex-Muslim who can talk online about losing her faith, but hasn’t told her family. Do you want to leave the evangelical church? There’s a subreddit for that. Do you want to find a practising Muslim spouse? Well, there are, at least,10 Facebook groups for that. For millions of us, social media is subverting the traditional ways we find like-minded people around the world. In faith terms, this can be taboo-breaking and revolutionary for those unable to meet others in person, but the internet also provides corners for the most conservative, hardline believers to amass. In New York, a group of celebrants of the Latin-American Brujerie are using their massive online presence to practise their spirituality. While in Texas a Tik-Tok star is making sure Hinduism isn’t forgotten But as Sophia finds out in this second part of its digital season, if social media is about finding your online tribe – that might also mean leaving your offline one. One young student tells us about her experience of losing her faith in Islam. She hasn’t told her family, but she’s using Discord and a subreddit group to help her cope. Presenter: Sophia Smith–Galer Producer: Julia Paul (Image credit: Getty Images)
3/13/202027 minutes, 44 seconds
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Religion apps: Daily prayer and the devil's data

There are thousands of religious apps offering to help you worship in the right way. In the first of a new season exploring the digital world and the spiritual world, Sophia Smith Galer considers whether they’re a quick convenience, or a legitimate means of getting closer to your God, and asks if they are all really as pious as they seem? Search iTunes, Google Play or the App Store and you will find thousands of apps offering to help you practise your religion. And as our smart phones become more and more essential to daily life, millions of us are downloading. But is this just convenience? Or a new way of practising our faith? In the US, the ‘OneTable’ app aims to bring young Jews without their own religious community, to celebrate the Friday night ritual of Shabbat. The app connects them with others in their area and it’s currently reaching up to 100,000 participants in 185 cities across the states. But for Orthodox Jews, using new technology is strictly forbidden. In the UK, in the last year, the Church of England’s prayer apps were accessed more than five million times. But the church is incredibly worried as actual attendance is still falling. But can using religion apps be a spiritual experience in itself? Independent developer Rohan Gunatillake, the Buddhist founder of mindfulness app Buddhify, says he’s not looking for people to convert – he’s just happy if the app helps them. Many major faiths have invested millions in religious apps to help them engage with young people who they feel are turning their backs on going to organised services. But is it always clear to users when a religious organisation is funding an app? And security research has also shown that overall, Bible apps have more malware than gambling apps! Heart and Soul investigates whether some religion apps are stealing your data rather than cleansing your soul. Presented by Sophia Smith Galer Produced by Julia Paul (Photo credit: Getty Images)
3/6/202027 minutes, 38 seconds
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Consulting the Oracle

Not many countries can boast of having a state Oracle. Tibet can, although the medium for their principal oracle – the Nechung – lives exiled from his native land in North India. Cambridge anthropologist and broadcaster David Sneath travels to Dharamsala to meet the medium of the present State Oracle of Tibet and explore the history and meaning of this remarkable institution. He examines the function and practice of an oracle in the 21st Century and considers how important his presence is for Tibetans in exile. Who is this powerful spirit, also known as Dorje Drakden, who takes over the body of the medium during trance? The function of the Nechung is to help protect the Buddha’s teachings and His Holiness the Dalai Lama. The Nechung also helps advise the exiled Tibetan administration. The present medium for the oracle goes by the name of Ven Thupten Ngodrup – known to all Tibetans as Kuten-la. He was born in Tibet in 1958 and became a monk at the age of 12. He fled Tibet into exile following the Chinese invasion of Tibet. David meets the medium in his beautiful monastery and describes the ritual of trance. ‘Consulting the Oracle’ looks at the history of the Nechung State Oracle and considers its uncertain future. It examines the ancient relationship between the oracle and His Holiness the Dalai Lama. (Photo:The medium of the present State Oracle of Tibet Ven Thupten Ngodrup, or Kuten-la to Tibetans (Centre)
2/28/202027 minutes, 8 seconds
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Meeting the bombers who killed my mum

Sarah, together with her father and brother, meets the bombers who killed her mother as she and her family attempt to understand how the men who carried it out could be followers of the same faith – and claim to carry out the act in the name of Islam. On her fifth birthday Sarah’s mother died from injuries sustained in a terrorist attack. She was the victim of a car bomb that exploded outside the Australian embassy in the Indonesian capital Jakarta in 2004. It was one of a series of bombings carried out by a local Islamist militant group Jemaah Islamiyah or J-I who were responsible for the country’s worst terrorist attack – the bombing on the holiday island of Bali in 2002 that killed more than 200 people. J-I members Rois and Ahmad Hassan are now on death row for their role in the bombing that killed Sarah’s mother. Rebecca Henschke witnesses the extraordinary meeting between Sarah and her mother’s killers on Indonesia’s highest security prison island. Presenter/producer: Rebecca Henschke Photo: Sarah (centre), Hassan (L) and Rois (R). Credit: Haryo Wirawan.
2/21/202027 minutes, 29 seconds
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The bomber turned peacemaker

“I am an expert bomb maker. I can make bombs in just five minutes; it’s easier than making a kite.” For Heart and Soul, Rebecca Henschke meets a bomber turned peacemaker as part of the Crossing Divides series on the BBC World Service. Ali Fauzi was a chief bomb-maker for Jemaah Islamiyah, a terror group with links to Al-Qaeda, responsible for Indonesia’s worst terrorist attack – the Bali bombing in 2002. His brothers carried out the bombing. Two of the brothers were executed, while another is behind bars for life. Ali insists he was not involved in the Bali bombing, but spent three years in prison for terror-related offences. That was when his life took on a dramatically new direction. He is now on a mission to help former jihadis leave a life of violence, and to stop new recruits from joining the next wave of terror groups in South East Asia. Produced and presented by Rebecca Henschke
2/14/202027 minutes, 24 seconds
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Dying to worship: The Christians of India

In just two years India has leapt up the table into the top ten of the most dangerous countries to be a Christian. At the same time, there’s a rise in an extreme version of Hinduism which is linked to the recently re-elected Prime Minister Narendra Modi. There are 65 million Christians in India, and they make up just over 2% of this vast country, but instead of being able to live and worship under the radar, in the last five years there’s been a huge increase in serious incidents against Christians. There are hundreds of cases of Christians being physically attacked, harassed, discriminated against, people being forced to flee their villages and Churches being destroyed. Zubair Ahmed reports for the BBC Hindi Service and is in Uttar Pradesh where many of the reported incidents of violence against Christians are taking place. Eight states in India have introduced anti-conversion bills to limit conversions from Hinduism to another faith. For the extremists who carry out the attacks the new laws are used as a way to legitimise their violent actions against Christians and Muslims. The government officially distances itself from the violent mobs that are attacking churches and mosques but the new Citizenship Bill, which was passed just after the elections last year, has defined what it is to be Indian even more vividly. Zubair meets Christians who have flatly refused to renounce their faith despite the risks. Presented and produced by Zubair Ahmed (Photo Credit: Zubair Ahmed)
2/10/202027 minutes, 25 seconds
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The Quran-rescuing monk of Timbuktu

Father Columba Stewart, a Benedictine monk from St Joseph's Abbey, Minnesota, travels to Timbuktu with a team of experts trying to persuade the Imams of the City's three great Mosques to allow them to digitise their highly endangered manuscript collections. These priceless cultural documents are filled with irreplaceable ancient wisdom. They are largely Islamic, but relate to all facets of life in the city over the last several hundred years. Many are straightforward copies of the Quran and the Hadith, but they include information and advice on everyday issues, like potions to prevent a husband from marrying a second time. Many manuscripts have not been read in centuries, and the vast majority have never been translated. Others are in Arabic script, but the languages are actually African. The texts themselves cling on to existence. Slowly disintegrating over the ages, they are now under a direct threat from the Islamic State. Many of these texts are viewed as 'haram', heretical or idolatrous, because they are of Sufi origin. Father Columba has watched on in horror as IS has systematically destroyed the Sufi shrines in Timbuktu and, in 2014, 4,000 of these manuscripts were burnt. Time has come for Father Columba to act. This is a journey fraught with danger. Father Columba is only able to access Timbuktu as part of an army convoy. On the ground, he will be aided by a team of UN security guards. Their presence is essential as Timbuktu is listed by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office as a no-go zone. All across the surrounding area, Islamic State militants lie in wait. (Photo: Father Columba Stewart Credit: Sean Glynn/This Is Novel)
1/31/202027 minutes, 35 seconds
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Adventures of a Jewish scribe

In the first of two special programmes we meet Marc Michaels who has a rare skill. He’s keeping Jewish tradition alive. He is a Sofer, a scribe. It’s a dexterous skill that has been passed down for thousands of years. Scrolls are always hand written, otherwise they are not Kosher. Scrolls hold the sacred words of the Torah, God’s instructions to Moses and they form the basic tenets of the Jewish faith as well as playing a vital, symbolic role in the synagogue. But throughout their turbulent history, Jews have been forced to move on, sometimes at speed, communities have disappeared, or were banned from practicing their faith, and forced to abandon their scrolls. Heart and Soul hears why it so important to find, rescue, repair and return scrolls to Jewish communities throughout the world. It’s slow, painstaking work, writing over one letter at a time, repairing tears and removing stains on ancient manuscripts. Marc introduces us to his wife Avielah, who is also a scribe, or 'Soferet'. She calls herself a ‘Scribal Evangelist’, the first modern female scribe Describing himself as a “Jedi with a quill” Dina looks on as Marc and Avielah bring these ancient, damaged scrolls back to life. Presenter: Marc Michaels Producer: Dina Newman
1/24/202027 minutes, 21 seconds
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Temples of discord: Church building in Putin’s Russia

The Cathedral of Christ the Saviour is a rebuilt structure, a beacon for the resurgent Russian Orthodox Church and a stronghold of Patriarch Kirill who recently boasted that three new churches are built somewhere in Russia every day. Last year, there were 25 new churches in Moscow alone. Patriarch Kirill argues the country needs new churches to replace the ones destroyed under Communism. In the Soviet era, Lenin compared religion to venereal disease. Churches and monasteries were pulled down or turned into meat storage units, public toilets and museums of atheism. Now the Patriarch says the increased concentration of churches will give Russians the opportunity to “feel closer to God, lead happier lives and tackle the difficult circumstances of the modern world.” Yet the church building programme has sparked mass protests across the whole country. Most recently thousands demonstrated against a new church on a park square in Yekaterinburg. Yekaterinburg’s citizens are not alone. Over the past 5 years there have been rows over new churches in 28 cities in 25 regions of Russia. A proposal for a church in Moscow’s Torfyanka Park in 2015 led to violent conflicts between local residents, Orthodox activists and the riot police. Many Russians, especially the younger generation, feel that the Church and the State are too close for comfort. The Kremlin’s recent decision to give 2.8 billion rubles ($43.4 million) toward luxury renovations at Patriarch Kirill’s mansion outside St. Petersburg only reinforces that impression. Even some devout Orthodox believers in Yekaterinburg were unhappy that the new St. Catherine’s Cathedral would be overshadowed by a massive new office block, a gym, and other buildings – the whole project bankrolled by two local oligarchs. Is this another example of the unholy alliance between God and Mammon? In this edition of Heart and Soul, we explore what this conflict over building churches tells us about the Orthodox clergy, the state and a new generation of Russia’s faithful. The archive audio for the programme is from a film 'Back to Byzantinism' and it was kindly provided by the film's director Vladislav Tarik. Produced by Tatyana Movshevich Presented by Lucy Ash
1/17/202027 minutes, 38 seconds
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Escaping China’s religious prison camps

They tell stories of torture and punishment all because of their faith. Uighurs and other ethnic Muslims locked up and subjected to hours of brainwashing designed to rid them of them their faith. Human Rights Watch estimate there a million Muslims held in camps across China accusing the state of forced political indoctrination, and religious oppression. There are thousands of Muslims though who have managed to escape the camps to Kazakhstan. Rustam Qobil meets them to learn about their lives. He will hear how they managed to keep their faith when they were imprisoned in a place specifically designed to ‘cleanse’ them of it. They will tell him of the methods their Chinese captors used on them and through this we will hear the emotional stories of the strengthening and weakening of faith, the doubt that comes with mental attacks and how that faith is now in the haven across the border in Kazakhstan. And we will hear how they escaped, how their Islamic faith sustained them through their ordeal and how now it helps them as they wait to hear from family members still held.
1/10/202027 minutes, 22 seconds
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The Queen of Sheba

Three-thousand years ago, according to legend, a beautiful and wealthy queen embarked on a long journey to visit a celebrated king. He was King Solomon, and she was the Queen of Sheba. The Queen of Sheba is the great eastern muse, shifting shape, race, appearance, according to the beholder. She may be historical, or she may be mythical, but she is still world famous. In the Bible, she asks hard questions of King Solomon and leaves only after he gives her all that she desires. In the Koran, this pagan sun-worshipping queen is converted by Suleiman to the one God, Allah. In the Ethiopian national history, called the Kebra Negast, the Queen of Sheba returns from Jerusalem with a son by Solomon called Menelik, who founds the great royal dynasty of Ethiopia. A Scottish historian swears he can prove that she was actually Egyptian, a rewriting of the bearded pharaoh Hatshepsut. There are other versions of this story too, spun from folklore and recreated by Hollywood. The Queen of Sheba is a temptress, a belly dancer, a witch. She has hairy legs, or an animal foot. She is part spirit, part woman. In Flaubert, she lustfully tempts poor St Antony, the monk in the desert. Beyonce performs in homage to her. Soaps, hotels, restaurants, aeroplanes are named after her. In Yemen and in Ethiopia, she is a symbol of national pride, and children are named after her. In Britain, haughty or flashy behaviour may be met with the sarcastic rejoinder: “Who does she think she is, the Queen of Sheba?” Nobody could be as magnificent as this mysterious queen of the south. So what do we really know about her, so celebrated in religion, and in art and in life? Did she exist, and even if she didn’t, why does she exercise such a powerful hold on our imagination? Sarah Sands traces the queen’s journey along the ancient spice route from the south through the Red Sea towards Jerusalem. She talks to the experts who know her story well – such as academic and writer Marina Warner who has studied her influence on feminism and folklore; Eyob Derillo from the British library, who speaks of her significance to Ethiopia; and Mustafa Khaled, the former Yemeni diplomat who regards her reign as a golden age for his country. Sarah meets the contemporary “Queens of Sheba”, the writer, director and cast of an exuberant and defiant show about female and black empowerment; and the young and eloquent Yemeni art student who looks to the Queen of Sheba for hope for herself and her homeland. And finally, the dean of Canterbury Cathedral, Dr Robert Willis, tells the story of the two ancient stained glass windows on the North Aisle. One depicts the Queen of Sheba meeting King Solomon. The next, the nativity scene. Two pilgrimages in search of power and glory, two different answers to hard questions. Who was the Queen of Sheba? She went on a journey, but was she also the expression of all our journeys? The journey may be geographical, intellectual, emotional or spiritual. Who do you think you are, the Queen of Sheba? For at least some contributors to this programme, the answer may be yes. (Photo: Stained glass windows on the north aisle of Canterbury Cathedral depicting the Queen of Sheba meeting King Solomon. Credit: Neil Koenig)
1/3/202027 minutes, 21 seconds
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Ministry of sport

Christians in the UK are facing a huge crisis of faith, the numbers of people who say they are churchgoers is falling and the church is worried. Shari Vahl meets the Anglicans harnessing the power of sport to try and reconnect people with a faith many had chosen to forget. Churches in Norwich, a city in the east of England are challenging people’s ideas of what ‘a church’ is, setting up the Sports Factory to use football to bring people, particularly young men, to God. Shari meets 24 year old Ian at the regular Monday night football, men his age are the most likely to turn their back on conventional Sunday services. He says it was the sport that brought him together with other Christians who enjoy sport, and that allowed him to feel his version of faith, rather than having it imposed by the church. The Church of England is spending spend nearly two million pounds training special sports ministers, they admit it’s a gamble, but with many churches closing across the country, it’s a gamble that needs to work. Image: A football during an English Premier League match (Credit: Richard Calver/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
12/30/201927 minutes, 19 seconds
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Joy to the world

The sounds of Christmas will come from Manchester as three choirs that represent the rich diversity of the city share the songs which say Christmas to them. Members of the choirs tell Keisha Thompson about their lives in the city in northern England and what it means to them to come together to sing Christmas songs Presenter: Keisha Thompson Producer: Neil Morrow
12/20/201927 minutes, 17 seconds
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Praise bee

"And your Lord inspired the Bee, build your dwellings in hills, on trees, and in (human's) habitations." (Qur'an 16:68). The bee has its own Surah or Chapter in the Qu’ran, it is revered in the faith for its diligent hard work and production of life-giving honey. The prophet Muhammed spoke about bees and honey. 'The believer is like a bee; her food and deeds are pure and wherever she goes she neither causes destruction nor corruption'. For many Muslims bees are not just intelligent, they are also in communication with God. 'God inspires them and guides them as he inspires and guides believers.' Starting the programme on the roof of the East London Mosque, Farrah Jarral explores the spiritual importance of the bee in Islam and across other faiths. Yossi Aud tells us how the bee is being used for peacebuilding. He runs the Bees for Peace project just outside of Jerusalem which brings together people from different sides of a divided society. The bee is a symbol that connects people all over the world. From Jerusalem to Manchester, where the bee has become a powerful symbol after the Arena bombing in 2017. Farrah meets Adrian Rhodes, Chaplain at Manchester Cathedral who looks after the bees on the roof of the Cathedral and describes what they mean to him personally Presenter: Farrah Jarral Producer: Geoff Bird Image of Khalil Attan Courtesy of East London Mosque
12/13/201927 minutes, 5 seconds
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Walking the Kartarpur Corridor for Guru Nanak

The Kartarpur Corridor crosses one of the most dangerous and contentious borders in the world, and is generally shut to travellers, but, hundreds of thousands of Sikhs have crossed it to mark the 550th birthday of Guru Nanak, the founder of their religion. The chance to visit the magnificent monument to him, is all down to a highly unusual level of diplomacy between India and Pakistan, all in the name of Sikhism, a religion which has always straddled the divisions between Hinduism and Islam. Nina Robinson travels with the pilgrims on a highly personal and emotional journey taking in the villages and towns of her Punjabi family to Gurdwara Darbar Sahib one of the holiest places in Sikhism. Presenter and Producer Nina Robinson Image : Kartarpur Nina Robinson/BBC Music of Bhai Gulab Muhammed Chand recorded by Jasdeep Singh Dilruba scales music by Jasdeep Singh Image: Nina Robinson/BBC
12/6/201927 minutes, 6 seconds
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Buddhism in Cambodia

Cambodia has been a Buddhist country since the 13th Century, apart from a period under the Khmer Rouge. Ninety-five per cent of the population identify as Buddhist. Journalist and blogger, Kounila Keo, brings together young people in Phnom Penh, to hear what they think of the way Buddhism is developing in South East Asia and what kind of Buddhism they want in their country. We have a panel of young Buddhists, together with a live audience, at Factory in Phnom Penh, to discuss issues such as violence, identity, healing, the position of women and gender. How much do young people see other countries such as Japan, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Thailand, as exemplar of a Buddhist way of life? How much should monks be engaging with the outside world? To what extent should modern monks stay in the pagodas, purifying the religion and protecting Buddhism for future generations? In what way can Buddhist principles help the development of Cambodia both economically and socially? Our panel and audience explore questions such as these and ask how Buddhism can be relevant in the lives of young people today. How do world events affect both their Buddhist and Cambodian identity? Producer: Louise Clarke-Rowbotham (Photo: A Cambodian woman prays before statues of Buddha at a pagoda in Phnom Penh. Credit: Tang Chhin Sothy/Getty Images)
11/30/201950 minutes, 34 seconds
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Halima: Faith and fashion

Halima Aden is one of the world’s first hijab wearing supermodels. A black, Somali-American, born in Kenya, Halima was the first contestant of a Miss Minnesota beauty pageant to wear a hijab. Now 22, she appears on magazine covers such as Elle and Vogue and walks the runway for famous designers. “I am not afraid of being the first”, she says with a smile. “I have an opportunity, through my modelling, to change the way that Muslim women are viewed, to give them a platform to have their voices heard, I’m mindful, and proud, of that responsibility.” How does Halima stay faithful to Islam while displaying herself so publicly? Alina Isachenka is a former model, now a BBC journalist, who has exclusive access to Halima as she prepares for the catwalk backstage in Istanbul and New York. Halima talks about how she is using her faith to make a difference in the fashion industry all over the world. Producer/presenter: Alina Isachenka (Photo: Halima Aden. Credit: Fadil Berisha)
11/29/201927 minutes, 33 seconds
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Custodians of the synagogue

The magnificent Maghen David synagogue in Kolkata, India, was once a place of worship for a thriving community of Baghdadi Jews in the city. Now, not more than 30 Jews remain, most of them elderly. There was no resident rabbi from the mid-'60s onwards and, for years, no regular services have been held in the synagogue. But the Maghen David synagogue still occupies a special place in the hearts and souls of those who have known and used it. Jael Silliman and her mother Flower have returned to Kolkata, the city of their birth, after living in the USA and Israel. Before the community completely disappears, Jael is trying to compile a digital archive that will record their history. Although the community itself has almost disappeared, the Maghen David has recently been restored and – somewhat surprisingly – has been lovingly looked after for generations by Muslim caretakers. Like his father and grandfather before him, Rabul Khan, takes great pride in his work as a custodian of the synagogue. He says there is no difference between this place of worship and his own: “Both are the House of God and you look after it as if it is your own. We do it with our hearts, whether it is a church, temple, synagogue or mosque.” Rabul hopes that the synagogue’s restoration might perhaps lead to a revival of the community too: “We believe that there will be a resurgence and more will come to pray in the synagogue…with Allah’s blessings” (Photo: Maghen David synagogue. Credit: Ruth Evans)
11/22/201927 minutes, 24 seconds
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Who will call me beloved?

Tania Hershman is single, lives alone and likes it that way. She is the writer-in-residence in one of Europe’s largest graveyards, the Southern Cemetery, a multi-faith burial site in Manchester in the north of England. As she wanders through the gravestones she has started to wonder – who will call her 'beloved' when she dies? Manchester has the highest percentage of single people in the UK. For Heart and Soul Tania asks how will we commemorate single people with imagination and tenderness? Recorded over a year the programme follows Tania as she walks among the dead, talking to them – and the living – about love and memory. Presenter: Tania Hershman Producer: Faith Lawrence (Photo: Graves the Southern Cemetery, Manchester: Credit: Jim Dyson/Getty Images)
11/15/201927 minutes, 31 seconds
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Joining the mosque I planned to destroy

Richard McKinney has made an extraordinary life journey – from a US veteran who planned to bomb a mosque, to a d Muslim who prays devoutly at the very Mosque he planned for 2 years to blow up. A veteran of the US Marines, Richard returned traumatised from combat in Afghanistan. That turned into a deep hatred of Islam. At his home in Muncie, Indiana, Richard was producing a device to blow up the town’s Mosque which he hoped will kill 200 people. But he decided to give the community he so hated ‘one more chance’. He visited the Islamic Centre, and was given a Koran to take home and read. Just eight weeks later, he had converted and within a few years he had become President of the very Mosque he yearned to destroy. Colm Flynn hears how Richard could have been one of America's most notorious mass murders, but is now a devout Muslim and advocate for peace and understanding. Producer and Presenter: Colm Flynn (Photo: Richard McKinney. Credit: Colm Flynn/BBC)
11/8/201927 minutes, 6 seconds
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Brexit faith borders

Christian communities along the Irish border are free to worship on either side of it. But some worry that the United Kingdom’s plans to leave the European Union could lead to that coming to an end The 300-mile-long border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland is one of the most contentious stumbling blocks in Britain’s attempts to Brexit. Since the violent sectarian Troubles ended twenty years ago, the border doesn’t actually exist as a physical barrier, and thousands people travel freely across it every day. Julia Paul meets Christian groups who worship along this invisible divide and hears concerns that changes to the border might reignite sectarian hatred. Presenter/Producer: Julia Paul (Photo: Fra and Jonny from 'Youth With A Mission' in Rostrevor in Northern Ireland)
11/1/201928 minutes, 2 seconds
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100 Women: Assmaah Helal

Growing up as a hijab-wearing football fan in Sydney, Australia wasn’t easy for Assmaah Helal. From an early age she has worn the hijab and played football. She tells us how she was already self-conscious about this outward symbol of her faith, so to play in a football match wearing it was a big deal. Assmaah now uses her love of football to help refugees, new migrants and socially disadvantaged children in Sydney, and she speaks to them for Heart and Soul, as part of the BBC's 100 Women season, about the struggle to fit in in Australia today. She tells us about her fight with the governing body of world football to overturn the ban on players wearing the hijab, and winning. Presenter: Assmaah Helal Producer: Phil Mercer Image: Phil Mercer To see the 2019 list of the BBC's 100 inspiring and influential women from around the world go to or on Facebook @BBC100Women
10/25/201927 minutes, 11 seconds
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100 Women: Chely Wright

To come out as gay while part of the Christian church and country music is a brave thing to do. As a teenager in deeply Christian Kansas, Chely Wright thought praying would ‘fix her’ and she would be able to lead ‘a normal life’. In the second of three programmes for Heart and Soul as part of the BBC’s 100 Women season, Chely shares her life, explaining the massive conflict between her sexuality and her faith. Her faith is still strong and in her New York City home she talks about how it has been a constant part of her life since she was girl on the family farm. But she feared that her career in country music would be over, and for the 100 Women season she will tell us about her hopes for the future and how Christianity as a whole will be more accepting. Presenter: Chely Wright Producer: Geoff Bird Image: Chely Wright (Credit: Michael Schwartz/Getty Images) To see the full list of 100 inspiring and influential women from around the world for 2019, go to or on Facebook @BBC100Women
10/18/201927 minutes, 23 seconds
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100 Women: Venerable Dhammananda

She is called ‘the rebel monk’, but has also been called a ‘dangerous dissident’ – one of the few female monks who say they are simply carrying on a tradition started by Lord Buddha thousands of years ago. The Venerable Dhammananda is the first Thai woman to be ordained as a female monk in the deeply conservative Theravada Buddhist tradition. Heart and Soul joins the ‘100 Women’ season running across the BBC to profile three women all making a huge impact in their field. All the programmes are led by the subjects and Dhammananda leads us on her journey from mother of three, to TV host and academic, to wearing the saffron robes of a traditional Buddhist monk as the Abbess of the all-female Songdhammakalyani Monastery, and the role she has taken up as fighter for spiritual equality. She tells us about the patriarchal faith and that she sees herself as a “change agent” encouraging women to make the most of their spiritual potential, Women offer a new spiritual perspective she says that all of Buddhism can benefit from Presenter: The Venerable Dhammananda Producer: Aurora Almendral Image: Aurora Almendral To see the full list of 100 inspiring and influential women from around the world for 2019, go to or on Facebook @BBC100Women
10/11/201926 minutes, 57 seconds
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Husbands and priests

From Europe to Latin America, the Catholic church is woefully short of priests. In the Amazon region of Brazil, the shortage is so dramatic that bishops are getting ready to discuss a radical solution: allowing married men to become priests, after a thousand years of priestly celibacy. What even most Catholics do not know is that within pockets of the Catholic fold, married priests already exist. In the Eastern Catholic churches, they are very much the norm. During a recent visit to Slovakia, Pope Francis even held these married priests up as a shining example: “The families of priests live a unique mission today.” Blanche Girouard meets some of those married priests to find out whether and how it could work to open up the Catholic priesthood to married men more widely. Among them is Fr Augustin Butica, who lives in Romania with his wife Violeta and four children. At one point, the couple and three of their children had to share one room because the church had no house for them to move into; but he has never questioned his dual commitment to his priestly ministry and his family. Meanwhile in the UK, Fr Jeff Woolnough, a former Anglican priest who has transferred to the Catholic church, is grateful that his wife Julie is there to support him at the worst of times - when he is called to the local hospital in the middle of the night to give an accident victim the last rites. Presenter/Reporter: Blanche Girouard. Producer: Kristine Pommert (Photo: Fr Augustin Butica, a married priest in the Greek Catholic church. Credit: Trevor Barnes)
10/4/201927 minutes, 40 seconds
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The cowboy church of Texas

Bandera, Texas, is the self-proclaimed Cowboy Capital of the World. It is also home to Ridin' The River Cowboy Fellowship, a cowboy church established eight years ago with a mission to connect cowboys to Christ. Resembling a giant barn with concrete floors, the church has corrugated walls, and a modest cedar-wood stage for sermons. Non-denominational, everyone is welcome at their Sunday services, Wednesday night Bible studies, plus regular roping and barrel racing events at the adjacent arena. Pastors Jeremy Levy and Jeff Bishop invite us to join their 500-strong congregation for the monthly “Chuckwagon breakfast” to find out why the cowboy way of life is inherently Christian. Here we meet professional working cowboys - ranchers, cowpokes, herders, professional rodeo riders - and fans of cowboy culture, who are drawn to this come-as-you-are style of worship. We also go behind the scenes at a local rodeo with church member Robin Montague as she competes in the barrel racing. Ridin' The River Cowboy Fellowship is a member of the American Federation of Cowboy Churches, a non-profit based in Waxahachie, Texas, which represents over 200 partner churches across 16 states. Cowboy churches have flourished in the last 15 years, despite a national decline in church membership, with more than 500 in the USA, and outposts in Mexico, Canada, Sweden, the Philippines, and Australia. Presenter: Robin Montague and Jeremy Levy Producer: Victoria Ferran (Photo: Interior of the Ridin' The River Cowboy Fellowship church taken from the stage. Credit: Victoria Ferran/BBC)
9/27/201927 minutes, 52 seconds
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Alabama: America’s battleground

The American state of Alabama, is the new fault-line in the country's battle over abortion. Two Christian women are on polar opposites of the argument. Sarah Howell resolutely opposes abortion. The Reverend Traci Blackmon is just as resolute in her belief that abortion should be legal. In Alabama, a virtual ban on abortion is due to become law in November. It is one of a wave of States that wants control of the procedure to be given back to them. Despite the law on abortion getting tighter in Alabama, its largest city - Birmingham – is pressing ahead with a brand new sexual health clinic. It says it will go ahead and provide abortions even though this flies in the face of the new law. It is against this backdrop that Sarah and Traci discuss how their faith sustains their opposing positions. Presenter: Sherrel Wheeler-Stewart Producer: Siobhann Tighe (Photo: Pro-choice activists hold signs in response to anti-abortion activists outside the US Supreme Court. Credit: Saul Loeb/AFP)
9/20/201927 minutes, 23 seconds
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A believer’s guide to atheism

Michael Symmons Roberts is a Catholic who thinks his faith would be a lot worse off if it were not for atheists. He says all faiths need atheists - after all, you can only strengthen and deepen your belief if you have got someone to challenge your beliefs. Michael also argues that atheism and religion have a common enemy. As religious belief declines in many countries, it is being replaced by new-age beliefs rather than clear and thought-through atheistic positions. As the English writer G.K. Chesterton put it: "When we stop believing in God, we don’t start believing in nothing, we believe in anything." Presenter: Michael Symmons Roberts Producer: Geoff Bird Photo: Atheists and those who oppose religion in government gathered for a rally in Washington DC (Credit: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)
9/13/201928 minutes, 1 second
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Jewish and returning to Germany

Eighty years ago, just days before the outbreak of the Second World War, a young woman, Kaethe Berliner, fled Nazi Germany. She made a new life in Great Britain and like many others was determined to leave the evils of Nazi Germany firmly behind her. Naomi Scherbel-Ball is the granddaughter of Kaethe Berliner, and after years of deliberation, she has decided to reopen that door to the past. Naomi will be the first in her family to apply to reclaim German nationality and she is being joined by thousands of descendants of German Jewish refugees doing the same. Despite the revival of both religious and secular German Judaism, the recent success of the far-right has awakened old fears. Has contemporary Germany changed enough for descendants of Jewish refugees to overcome the tragedy of the past? Presented and Produced by Naomi Scherbel-Ball. Picture credit: BBC
9/6/201927 minutes, 9 seconds
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Saving Ethiopia’s church forests

An estimated 95% of the native forest has already lost in northern Ethiopia, yet from the sky it has always been possible to see small green circles of hope across the country – the church forests of Ethiopia. Kalkidan Yibeltal travels to Bahir Dar to meet a man whose faith has led him to a lifetime working to preserve these oasis of calm and fertility. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church teaches the value of nature and the small forests surrounding each place of worship offer sanctity and healing for the communities they serve. We join Dr Alemayehu as he enters the sanctuary of the forest and learn of his passionate hope is that these forests can flourish and be connected – perhaps with corridors alongside rivers and streams – to give wildlife the greatest possible chance to thrive. He finds both sadness and joy as he strives to protect the last of Ethiopia’s native forest.
8/30/201927 minutes, 36 seconds
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Our daily bread

The Holy Monastery of the Honorable Forerunner hosts a unique community of Orthodox nuns from across the globe that have made the 500-year-old mountain monastery in Greece their home. In this programme we are transported by the mesmerising Byzantine chanting of the sisters and the musical bells of mountain goats, to a world far removed from the frenzied pace of modern life. Rachel O’Connell has lived as part of this community for the last year, and she guides us through this unique and fascinating world. We join this secluded community of tenacious and committed women as they work the land and serve God; their way of life a challenging and inspiring mix of intense faith, physical isolation, and frontier spirit. We will also share in their biggest feast of the year, Pasca, or Orthodox Easter. (Photo: Orthodox nuns work the land at The Holy Monastery of the Honorable Forerunner, Mount Kissavos, Greece, with kind permission from the monastery)
8/23/201927 minutes, 25 seconds
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The pilgrim paths of Ireland

Manika Bébhinn Ramsay’s husband, Alastair, died suddenly in 2007. Walking along an ancient pilgrim path, St.Kevin’s Way in County Wicklow, Bébhinn recalls the horror of coping with a sudden bereavement and tells presenter Regan Hutchins how pilgrimages helped her to cope with her grief and how they have brought a new meaning to her life. These old Ways of the Saints are being restored as increasing numbers of people - believers and non-believers alike - seek them out. Traditions and rituals associated with the pilgrim paths continue and new ones are added as Ireland finds its spiritual footing for the 21st Century. Along the path of St.Kevin’s Way Regan joins other pilgrims to hear how they are drawn to the Old Ways to resolve inner conflicts and to make peace with the often chaotic modern world. We hear how paths such as St.Kevin’s Way, are being organised to reach increasing numbers of pilgrims and tourists alike and how they open up some of the hidden treasures of the Irish countryside. Spirituality is at the heart of these routes and the practice of walking along them has brought strength and peace to travellers across the centuries. Producer: Regan Hutchins (Photo: Group of pilgrims at Glendalough. Credit: Patricia Murphy )
8/16/201927 minutes, 26 seconds
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The Last Supper

This year is the 500th anniversary of the death of Leonardo Da Vinci and marks that start of a major series of international exhibitions celebrating his life and work. In this edition of Heart and Soul we’ll explore the creation and continuing impact of one of the most important and famous religious paintings in the world – Leonardo’s masterpiece – The Last Supper. Da Vinci began The Last Supper around 1495, the fact that it’s survived more than 500 years is a miracle in itself. Da Vinci used a new technique to create vibrant and life-like portraits of Jesus and his disciples, but from the start it required contestant retouching. Various invading armies have abused it and even tried to cut the plaster down to take as a trophy. A century ago the painting was in such poor repair that it was feared it would be lost completely, but still it endured, fragile but undiminished and more than 300,000 people a year queue for strictly limited tickets to see it. Art historian Elizabeth Lev tells the story of The Last Supper and decodes the religious imagery that has so entranced the world. Da Vinci has depicted a seminal moment in religious faith and history. Jesus is seen reaching for the bread and wine – this was the first Eucharist – arguably the birth of Christianity. The Last Supper ushered in the Renaissance and changed forever the way artists portray the relationship between Man and God. But it is an image that is hugely symbolic to Christians around the word and Elizabeth speaks to the tattoo artist who spends hours etching it faithfully onto the body parts of people and the Mexican worshipper who shares how people around her have the image on the walls of their houses to remind themselves of the Last Supper. Presenter: Elizabeth Lev Producer: Phil Pegum (Photo credit: Getty Images)
8/9/201927 minutes, 23 seconds
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My faith and my large family

Colin Brazier is a Catholic and with six children, has long promoted the benefits of a large family. Colin looks at this very personal issue and examines what part religion plays in how many children makes a family The idea of religious people being told that re-populating the earth is part of their faith is a strong one - but environmentalists foresee problems for the planet if the population grows as it is doing, especially in parts of the world where religious teachings are very influential. Colin meets a Jewish family who have chosen to have a large family and a Christian who has decided that she would have just one child for the sake of the environment Presenter: Colin Brazier Producer: Henrietta Harrison Image: Getty Images
8/2/201927 minutes, 27 seconds
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Walking on a hot coil

Being hung from tall trees on sharp hooks attached to flesh and piercing body parts with hot iron rods; it's a painful, almost sadistic way of praying for the harvest from the Hindu god Shiva in West Bengal to be a good one. Although they’re already experiencing some of the effects of climate change, they do not know about the catastrophe that awaits them in a future not so far away. West Bengal is amongst the areas in the world where scientists estimate climate change will hit the hardest. Sahar Zand takes listeners on an extraordinary journey to the heart of West Bengal where religious ceremonies outnumber the months in the calendar. Here every child grows up knowing the proverb “13 festivals in just 12 months”. Sahar hears how the faith in Shiva's power is so earnest, but that the evidence is that global warming is having a powerful and deadly affect on the farmers here. They tell her that many thousands of rural workers have committed suicide after their crops have been ruined. Produced and Presented by Sahar Zand Images: Sahar Zand / BBC
7/26/201927 minutes, 37 seconds
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A spiritual awareness from space

There has always been a synergy between spirituality and space, even before man first escaped the boundaries of our home planet. Once they did, astronauts in orbit reported feelings of awe and wonder. Viewing the Earth from on high, they were transfixed by the magic such a perspective brings. Astronaut Charlie Walker, one of the crew of the space shuttle Discovery, takes a close-up look at the phenomenon that’s become known as the 'overview effect'. It was writer Frank White who first coined the term, describing it as ‘a cognitive shift in awareness’ - a meditative or even spiritual experience. You can see it in the brain, as neuroscientist Dr Andrew Newburgh reveals. On returning to Earth, astronauts talk of a deep desire to make the world a better place, to engage with others and make full use of the powers that being part of an elite few has given them. What if we could all experience the overview effect? With commercial space flights and state of the art terrestrial technology, it could soon become a reality. Views from the heavens have been described as a cosmic wake up call, a reminder we're all travelling on 'spaceship Earth' together. Charlie Walker explores whether it could be the key to a more caring, sharing world. Image: The Earth as seen from the International Space Station (Credit: Tim Peake/ESA/Nasa)
7/19/201926 minutes, 30 seconds
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Rwanda’s Muslims 25 years after the genocide

Rwanda has been remembering the 100 days of Genocide which led to hundreds of thousands of its people were slaughtered. Twenty five years on from that and to mark the end of the 100 days of mourning, Audrey Brown tells the story of a relatively unknown result of that time – the rise in Islam in Rwanda. She will hear how in the worst days of the genocide, Muslims shielded, saved and harbored Tutsis as they were chased down by Hutus. At that time, there were just a handful of Muslims here but now its estimated that Muslims make up 10% of this country. This is in contrast to Christian churches, and Audrey hears how they were complicit in many thousands of deaths and she meets the Muslims who were so affected by what they witnessed in 1994 that they converted from Christianity to Islam Produced and Presented by Audrey Brown Production John Gakuba and Helen Roberts Images: Audrey Brown
7/12/201927 minutes, 30 seconds
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Religion and climate change in Nairobi

For the BBC World Service, Nairobi based journalist and broadcaster Ciru Muriuki brings together young people of different faiths, together with a live audience, at the National Museum in Nairobi, Kenya, to hear what people want from their religious leaders and hear how faith motivates their activism. We’ll hear from young people in Kenya who are putting themselves on the front lines of the battle to save the planet. Some are helping farmers and communities find sustainable ways to earn income; others are picking plastic out of the sea and marching to get attention from those in power. Some say their faith compels them to protect wildlife and care for all living beings; others say energies would be better put into forcing high polluting countries to change their ways while in Kenya the focus should be on development, education and relieving poverty. In a continent that is experiencing the effects of climate change disproportionately compared to many parts of the world, how should religious leaders of every faith be mobilizing their communities? Producer: Louise Clarke-Rowbotham Photo: Hundreds of people with placards take part in demonstration in Nairobi calling for climate change justice for Africa. Credit: SIMON MAINA/AFP/Getty Images
7/6/201949 minutes, 52 seconds
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Rebuilding Notre Dame

In the hours after the fire at Notre Dame Cathedral, French President Macron said France would rebuild Notre Dame to be “more beautiful than ever". In the days that followed, some of Frances wealthiest people promised millions of Euros to ensure that actually happened. But the fire has awoken this country. Even some atheists have suddenly realised what this means to its Christian heritage. The French word is ‘patrimoine’ from ‘patres’ – fathers and ‘monere’ memory, the memory of our fathers. The fire at Notre Dame shook France, but does the desire to restore it show a new affinity with religion or a chance for the country to restore some civic pride? John asks whether this has been a wake-up call for France’s church and new hope for a revival of the "faith of our fathers". Produced and Presented by John Laurenson Photo: Tourists taking pictures and selfies at Notre Dame Cathedral Credit: Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images.
7/5/201927 minutes, 5 seconds
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Football and belief for Egypt's Copts

Mina Bendary is a good footballer, once thought to be one of the better players in Egypt. As his country hosts the African Cup of Nations, Mina won’t be involved because, he believes, he is a Coptic Christian. Egypt are attempting to win AFCON with a team that is made up of Muslims. Perhaps, because Copts only make up only 10% of Egypt’s population, the lack of Copts in this year’s squad might be pure coincidence. But Mina says that discrimination against Copts in the country’s national sport is no secret. Shaimaa Khalil travels back to her home city of Alexandria to meet Mina, as well as other Christians who tell her of the discrimination they have suffered trying to make it in football. In some cases she hears they have even been told to change their names to something more Muslim sounding. But the authorities disagree, saying that no one is discriminated against and that if Copts are not making it, that is because they do not have the right attitude. Presenter: Shaimaa Khalil Production: Helen Roberts, Moussa Zarif Image: Shaimaa Khalil/BBC
6/28/201927 minutes, 54 seconds
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The wind phone

When an earthquake and tsunami struck Japan in 2011, 30ft (9.14m) waves obliterated coastal communities. The small town of Otsuchi lost everything including 2000 residents. One resident, Itaru Sasaki, was already grieving his cousin before the tsunami hit. He had the idea of nestling an old phone booth on the windy hill at the bottom of his garden which overlooked the Pacific Ocean. This would be a place he could go to speak to his cousin - a place where his words could ‘be carried on the wind.’ The white, glass-paned booth holds an old disconnected rotary phone. He called it his Wind Phone. In the aftermath of the terrible tsunami, as word of the phone spread, it became a pilgrimage site for those who had lost loved ones. In the sanctuary of the booth they would dial old phone numbers and talk to their loved ones. Interpreter and journalist Miwako Ozawa visited Otsuchi in the weeks after the tsunami. In this programme she returns for the first time since 2011 to visit the phone and find out how it has helped people to cope with their grief. We meet some of those who regularly visit the phone and we hear their stories and listen in to their phone calls. In many ways the wind phone typifies a very Japanese relationship with nature and death and with the invisible forces that connect us all. As the residents of Otsuchi face the slow progress of rebuilding their town and the frightening reality of future extreme weather, the wind phone is a reminder of those losses that won’t be forgotten. Presenter: Miwako Ozawa Producer: Sarah Cuddon (Photo: The wind phone)
6/7/201926 minutes, 32 seconds
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A female rabbi in training

Miriam Camerini is in training. It’s a three year course, and at the end of it, if she is successful, she will become one of the world's first female Orthodox Jewish rabbis. Ever since she was a child, Judaism has been part of her life, and now she has immersed herself further in her faith to eventually be able to lead prayers and call herself a rabbi. Rabbis in Orthodox Judaism have been men, and Miriam tells us about her journey so far. In Milan, Miriam introduces Geoff Bird to some of the other people who are helping her and why influences from outside Judaism are as important to her preparation, and how she favours some of the more traditional laws of Judaism, even those that may seem on the outside to be misogynistic. We join her as she immerses herself in the Torah at a Yeshiva in Jerusalem, learning what her fellow male students think about sharing their studies with a woman. Miriam is also a theatre actress, and we hear how it has played a big part in the way she understands her faith. Presenter: Miriam Camerini Producer: Geoff Bird
5/31/201927 minutes, 29 seconds
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Kaka'i: Our fight to survive

Farhad al-Kake tells the story of his people, the Kaka'i of Iraqi Kurdistan, whose faith has put them under threat from Islamic fundamentalists. Persecution has made them secretive about their beliefs and practices, but for the first time they tell of the danger they face – how places of worship have been destroyed and believers kidnapped, attacked and murdered by Isis, who hold the Kaka'i’s egalitarian, peaceful religion to be a ‘false cult’. Despite the danger, we hear how the Kaka'i are holding on to their faith on the frontline. (Photo: Kaka'i women on rugs. Credit: Farhad al-Kake)
5/17/201928 minutes, 28 seconds
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Beauty and belief: The story of a Brooklyn salon

For Heart and Soul, American journalist Noor Wazwaz takes us into the private world of New York’s first hijab-friendly hair and beauty salon. Based in Brooklyn, Le'Jemalik - which means For Your Beauty in Arabic - is owned and run by Yemeni-American Huda Quhshi. A hair and beauty expert with an entrepreneurial spirit, it’s been Huda’s life-long ambition to create a beautiful, bright, enclosed women-only space where clients can let their hair down, in every sense of the word. Modesty is the order of the day for Muslim women here in the salon, and opinions vary on just how much makeup can be worn in public. But one thing is agreed: religious modesty and a desire to be beautiful can and do go together. We meet bridesmaids getting dolled up for their big day, hard-working mums and fashion students in need of pampering. Listening on conversations, we discover how religion and culture shape Muslim women's views about beauty and fashion. Some beauty treatments are considered haram - or forbidden by Islamic law - but there are workarounds such as halal brows and halal nail polish. Image: A beautician at work (Credit: Joy Ernanny)
5/3/201926 minutes, 55 seconds
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Pick up your stretcher and walk!

Like many disabled people, Damon Rose is regularly approached by Christians who want to pray for him to be healed. Would-be healers claim they’re simply doing what Jesus himself did and what he instructed his followers to do. They may mean well, but the experience can leave disabled people feeling judged as ‘faulty’ and in need of repair. Is this really what Christianity teaches about disability? In this programme, Damon (a blind journalist and open-minded non-believer) investigates different Christian approaches to disability, combining cutting-edge theology with personal stories of faith, hope and human frailty. He joins a group of Christians as they offer healing on the street, attends a healing service and meets the disabled Christians carving out a new ‘theology of disability’. Interviewees include: Lyndall Bywater, a Christian writer and prayer leader in the United Kingdom Jonathan Conrathe, founder of Mission 24 – a Christian ministry that works with churches all over the world Becky Tyler, who preached at the Greenbelt Christian festival Candida Moss, the Edward Cadbury Professor of Theology at the University of Birmingham Rev Zoe Hemming, vicar of St Andrews Church in the village of Aston in Shropshire, England. If you would like to contact BBC Ouch please email [email protected] (Image: Damon on the tube, Credit: Sarah Dousse)
4/26/201926 minutes, 53 seconds
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New York Stations of the Cross

For Easter weekend Rosie Dawson joins a group of the faithful in New York as they follow a very different Stations of the Cross - a series that bears witness to the scourge of sex trafficking - a modern form of slavery - that every year traps thousands of young girls and women in the city. It marks the start of a campaign against hugely controversial plans to make New York the first state in America to completely decriminalise the sex industry. Rosie travels New York’s Via Dolorosa (The Way of Tears) that trafficked girls and women in New York often find themselves taking. Reverend Adrian Dannhauser is the guide on this alternative journey. "If we legalise the industry we will go back to the days of the '70s when you had lines of African-American women lined up in Times Square like slaves on an auction block." Rosie joins the pilgrims at the bus station and at JFK airport, the gateway into the US for so many women trafficked from abroad. We take in the notorious motel where men pimp the women they control. And finally a human trafficking intervention court, which recognises that those arrested on prostitution charges are likely to be victims of sex trafficking, violence and trauma. Producer: Rosie Dawson (Photo: Rosie Dawson)
4/19/201927 minutes, 6 seconds
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Fork in the Road - Two journeys out of violence

In the final part of Fork in the Road, Jane Little meets two more people who have been through similar life changing experiences, but have had their faith affected in different ways. Jahaziel and Guvna B are both rappers, and products of the housing estates of London. They have both seen street violence, friends hurt, and witnessed the decaying effect on the lives of young black men. Jahaziel was one of the biggest selling Christian rappers, but now he has left his faith. He tells Jane how he just couldn’t regurgitate the ideas that he had been fed since he was a boy, and how his fans turned on him when he turned his back on Christianity. Guvna B grew up in a similar gang-ruled neighbourhood of London. He now shares his strong Christian faith through his own music, winning a MOBO in 2010. Jane hears how his music is his relationship with God. After hearing their individual stories of growing up amid gang violence, Jane brings them together to discuss how, despite those similar circumstances, they have taken different paths in faith. Produced and presented by Jane Little Image: Jane Little/BBC
4/5/201927 minutes, 8 seconds
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Young Muslims in France

The BBC World Service is in the city to hear youthful voices with a variety of views on their faith. Islam is the second largest religion in France. In a nation that separates state and religion what does a French Muslim identity look like? In this unique and timely programme, Heart and Soul Gathering on the BBC World Service, hears from a group of young Muslims with a variety of different faith perspectives and backgrounds. Together with a studio audience, they discuss personal faith and experience. Presented by Somaya Nasr and Produced by Louise Clarke-Rowbotham for the BBC World Service. Image: A young woman takes a photograph with a smartphone outside The Grande Mosque in Paris. Credit: Getty/ZAKARIA ABDELKAFI / Contributor
3/30/201949 minutes, 43 seconds
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Fork in the Road - My faith and my sexuality

Can you remain committed to your religion even it it does not accept your sexuality? Jane Little meets two well-known writers who have publicly wrestled with their faiths and been forced to make choices on whether to stay or go. Andrew Sullivan is a political commentator whose writings helped drive the successful campaign for gay marriage in the United States. But the battles along the way, especially during the era of the AIDS epidemic, caused him to question his Catholic faith and he admits he faced some dark moments and prolonged anger at the church. Irshad Manji is a Canadian Muslim writer who has been an outspoken critic of Islam, not least over attitudes to homosexuality and women's rights; she has received death threats for her work. She tells Jane about her lifelong habit of rebellion; she was kicked out of Islamic school as a child for asking questions, but has eventually found peace - with her version of Islam and in marriage to a woman. Producer: Jane Little
3/29/201926 minutes, 45 seconds
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Fork in the Road - God in the War on Terror

How is it that two people can share the same experiences and events and it have such different effects on their faith? Jane Little meets two men who both answered the call after 9/11 to join the War on Terror, but who came out of it with very different ideas about their relationship with God. Rory Fanning and Jesse Bowman both served in the US Army and witnessed the worst that war could throw up. One of them lost his previously unshakeable Catholicism, the other found comfort from the psychological trauma in God. They both share candidly with Jane their experiences and how these shaped their futures. Image: Young US Army soldiers attend a Sunday morning Catholic service on base at Fort Levinworth in Kansas in February 2003 (Credit: Charles Ommanney/Getty Images)
3/25/201927 minutes, 29 seconds
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A year and a day

When Colin Brazier lost his wife Jo to cancer last summer, he felt pressure to put his grief on show, to make her funeral a celebration. Friends expected him to give the eulogy at her funeral, and some wanted to wear bright colours to celebrate her life. But that felt completely wrong, and though one mourner turned up in shorts and flip flops, the service was a traditional one with hymns and mourners dressed in black. As a Catholic, the ritual of the Requiem Mass felt cleansing and appropriate. As much of Europe and the US becomes more secular, Colin explores the modern funeral and the growth of the personalised, celebratory service, in contrast to the service he organised for Jo. With pall bearers dressed as super-heroes and wakes at McDonalds, is death being given its true state, and should it be a time to celebrate? In a highly personal programme, Colin talks to non-believers too, and asks how they navigate death without the framework of religion to guide them. Presenter: Colin Brazier Producer: Henrietta Harrison Picture: Jo Brazier. Credit: Colin Brazier
3/21/201927 minutes, 29 seconds
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American Judaism after the Tree of Life

It was the response of Jewish organisations that was possibly most telling the day after last year's Tree of Life shooting. President Trump wasn’t welcome in Pittsburgh unless, that is, he denounced the language of white nationalism. The attack on the synagogue, according to The Washington Post, ‘wasn’t unimaginable but inevitable’, and anecdotally the build-up of anti-Semitic attacks in the US may just back that up. The Anti-Defamation League logged a 57 percent rise in incidents in 2017. The Tree of Life synagogue sits in the Squirrel Hill area of Pittsburgh, and has been described as an urban shtetl; we meet the Jews who share this small section of the city. David McGuire asks Rabbi Jeffrey Myers how the shooting of 11 of its members affected the Squirrel Hill community. Under the provocative #jewishresistance, liberal Jews have challenged other Jews to stand up for their faith, but the reality is that they aren’t united, they are split religiously and politically. The accusation is that Orthodox and Conservative Jews are remaining silent when it comes to the rise of anti-Semitic language. Jews across the USA say they now feel as threatened as they have done for many years, and as they face external intimidation, there is a growing gap between the two sides of the faith in the USA. Producer and Presenter: David McGuire Picture: A shop front in Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh, USA. Credit BBC
3/8/201927 minutes, 34 seconds
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Kenya’s Quakers: Best of Friends

Kenya is home to the majority of the world's Quakers and it is vibrant and noisy, much different from the quiet, contemplative religion most of us know. Audrey Brown has been to the spiritual home of the Quaker faith, Kaimosi to learn how it landed, spread and flourished. The faith is growing at rapid rate across East Africa, fighting for converts with other Christian faiths and Quakers in Europe have recently been debating whether God has a place in its worship, but that's not the case here in Kenya, God is at the front and centre of their boisterous services. there aren't many moments of silence here. Audrey meets the Kenyan worshippers as well some visiting German Quakers and listens in as they debate the importance, or not, of God. Picture: A Quaker in Kenya Credit: BBC
3/1/201927 minutes, 37 seconds
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Making friends with the KKK

Daryl Davis collects Ku Klux Klan memorabilia – KKK robes, hoods and masks. He says they are given to him by those leaving the white supremacist organisation, after he has spent time befriending them and persuading them to change their views. Heart and Soul hears from Daryl about what drives him, his Christian faith and concerns about racial division within the church, and from Scott Shepherd, one of those he helped to leave the KKK. Mike Wooldridge asks if Daryl is doing ‘the right thing’. His critics complain that his testifying in court in defence of violent extremists is a step too far, and that he would be better joining with others in calling for political change. But Daryl maintains that the sometimes risky meetings he initiates, for which he calls upon God’s protection, are a good way of changing people’s minds. (Photo: Daryl Davis, 59, poses with a Ku Klux Klan hood and robe in the foreground, 2017. Credit: Matt McClain/The Washington Post/Getty Images)
2/15/201926 minutes, 30 seconds
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My son’s killer, next door

On 12 February 1993 Mary Johnson’s only son, 20-year-old Laramiun Byrd, was murdered. The perpetrator was 16-year-old Oshea Israel, who received a 25-year sentence for second degree murder. Many years later Mary visited Oshea in prison, and after his release in 2010 they lived as neighbours in the Northside community of Minneapolis – and developed a strong bond. Mary, driven by her Christian faith, now runs From Death to Life, an organisation she founded to promote healing and reconciliation between families of victims and those who have caused harm. Mike Wooldridge hears from Mary, who says Oshea is her ‘spiritual son’, from Oshea who explains how transformative the initial meeting with Mary was, and from the mothers of murderers and victims of murder as they come together to share their pain.
2/8/201926 minutes, 31 seconds
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Faith v America’s Opioid Epidemic

When people talk about America’s opioid epidemic, they often focus on the record number of drug related overdose deaths – 72,000 last year – or the growing number of court cases against the drug manufacturers. But for a lot of people there is another story – that of their personal struggle against addiction. And for many of them, that means holding fast to their faith. What part can faith play in helping those who are determined to make a change, and how does it contribute to the fight against the opioid epidemic in America? In Louisville, Kentucky, the churches play their part in the recovery services. Louisville is sometimes called the recovery centre of Kentucky, and we find out more about different approaches, and also contrasting views in treatments. Medication assisted approaches use the drug Suboxone but some centres do not agree with using drugs to treat drugs. Some depend on faith alone. The programme explores the challenges that face individuals who want to help themselves and the decisions they take in order to change their lives. Image: A train passes through Lawrenceburg, Kentucky (Credit: Luke Sharrett/Getty Images)
2/1/201926 minutes, 30 seconds
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Christians praying for one Korea

The secretive state of North Korea is routinely named as the worst place in the world to be a Christian. Fuelled and bank-rolled by American evangelists, Christianity has experienced massive growth in South Korea. For the most part it is laser-like-focused on the establishment of one Korea, so all Christians on this peninsular can pray without fear. There are an estimated three hundred thousand Christians in North Korea all praying secretly, knowing that if they are found out they will be taken away to one of the country's notorious labour camps. Rebecca Henschke hears how Christians in the South smuggle in bibles and broadcast Christian messages for the secret worshippers, who are preparing for the day that they will be able to spread God's word openly into the North and beyond. But not all Christians here around Seoul want unification – North Korea is still the enemy for them and they have witnessed the south become a prosperous, developed, well-educated country. Relations between North Korea and the US are continually surprising and conflicting. The role of the millions of Christians in the south could be vital; for many of them reunification is God's will, regardless of what the politicians decide. Presenter: Rebecca Henschke Production: Rebecca Henschke and Hyunah Kang Picture credit: A Christian woman prays in Seoul/Getty Images
1/25/201927 minutes, 34 seconds
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The raven has featured in human culture for millennia, taking its place in a wide range of belief systems as a wily trickster and revealer of truths. Two ravens perched on the Norse God Odin's shoulders representing thought and memory. In the Bible the raven is released by Noah from the Ark. And the large black bird has held totemic status for numerous faiths as a savage soothsayer. However, in the last few centuries, in the West, the raven came to be viewed as nothing more than a symbol of death. Following the Plague it was persecuted to the extent where it was almost wiped out across much of the British Isles. But on the islands of Haida Gwaii off Canada’s Pacific NW coast, the raven has always enjoyed an exalted status. The Haida Nation is divided into the Raven and the Eagle Clan. Both birds live among this indigenous people, who have inhabited the islands since the Ice Age. Writer Joe Shute explores the Haida relationship with the Raven and finds a deep spiritual connection which has waned in Western culture. He hears creation stories in which Raven discovers the first men and steals the light from the gods for the benefit of mankind. He witnesses ceremonies honoring the raven and speaks to the Chief of the Raven Clan to understand how this mischievous, raucous, intelligent bird - whose “kronk” call can be heard all around the islands - acts as both as a vehicle between the human and supernatural worlds, and also as a mirror through which the Haida see themselves. Image: Raven on Haida Gwaii (British Columbia, Canada) by Jags Brown
1/18/201926 minutes, 31 seconds
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Marriage in Israel

Many young Jewish people living in Israel feel religion has too big an influence over their private lives. Numerous aspects of life are governed by a council made up of orthodox rabbis called the Rabbinate. They decide who is and isn't Jewish and by extension who can and can't marry. Supporters of the organisation say this helps preserve Jewish identity. Critics say it means thousands of people who are not deemed 'Jewish enough' can't marry each other, forcing couples to leave the country to have a ceremony that will be recognised by the authorities when they return home. The religious monopoly on marriage also means Jews cannot marry non-Jews and as the council of orthodox rabbis rule on divorce for every married couple in Israel, many say this disadvantages women. Tim Franks is with a live audience and a panel of guests to discuss whether the Rabbinate should be stripped of its monopoly, or whether the current rules protect the identity and values of the Jewish faith. This special Heart and Soul Gathering from the BBC World Service is the third programme in a series of faith-based community discussions. Produced by Louise Clarke-Rowbotham. Photo credit: Jewish Wedding Ring - Godong/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
1/12/201949 minutes, 51 seconds
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Divorce, Communion and Catholic Confusion

The laws around divorced Catholics receiving communion are both clear and strict. But recently Pope Francis has clouded the issue with a number of pronouncements, giving millions of divorced Catholics hope that they will be able to receive the sacrament at mass. Catholics who divorce in civil law are still married according to the law of the church, and any relationship they enter into is adulterous. And as that's a mortal sin, they cannot take communion. Adrian Chiles hasn’t married again after he divorced, but hasn’t ruled it out. He knows, though, that once that happens, he won’t be able to receive the most important element of his faith, and that bothers him. Adrian begins by meeting Cristina Odone, a Catholic journalist who tells him how she cannot receive communion because she is married to a divorcee and how much this upsets her. He also meets two divorcees who face having to get an annulment of difficult marriages. There are many Catholics who want the law upheld, and many others who have been given hope by the Pope. Adrian uses his own situation to explore this thorny subject which is causing division in his church. Presenter: Adrian Chiles Producer: Henrietta Harrison Photo: A priest handing out communion during mass Credit: Getty Images.
1/11/201927 minutes, 30 seconds
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Durga Puja with Amit Chaudhuri

Imagine being swept along the streets of Calcutta by a crowd of over three hundred thousand people all visiting fantastical temporary pandals which are built from clay, silt, wicker, and papier-mache by local artisans every year to celebrate the festival of Durga Puja. Acclaimed writer and local resident Amit Chaudhuri, along with family members and friends, go pandal-hopping across the neighbourhoods of the city to tell the story of how the Hindu goddess Durga leaves her spiritual realm for five days every autumn and visits her mortal devotees to allow them to be seen by her. This devotional reassurance takes place inside the pandals which all contain an effigy, a murti, of Durga and curiously, displays reflecting particular current issues, from the overtly political to the blatantly commercial. Each neighbourhood has spent the previous year raising funds for the structures and over the years, the building of the pandals and their murti has become increasingly competitive, with each district vying to outdo the others in an carnival-like celebration of spirituality that is as much about Disney as it is about deity. The festival concludes when Durga returns to her spiritual home and the pandals no longer have purpose. They are dismantled and, followed by vast crowds, taken to the Ganges and immersed in the fast-flowing water where they dissolve and return as the silt which will be used to make new pandals for next year’s Durga Puja. Additional writing, editing and post production by John Wakefield. Location recording by Shuva Chakraborti. Producer: Roger James Elsgood (Photo: The street and houses leading up to the brothel pandal with dummies of sex workers. Credit: Amit Chaudhuri)
1/4/201926 minutes, 31 seconds
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Once in Royal David's City

No carol encapsulates the beginning of Christmas like ‘Once in Royal David’s City’ which every Christmas Eve opens the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, in the candlelit Chapel of King's College, Cambridge. Around the globe, listeners to the BBC World Service tune into the service every year. This is a story of last minute anticipation, as three or four boys are traditionally put on standby, and at the last moment one is chosen to sing the famous carol. Its opening bars are part of Christmas for millions of people wherever they are in the world, who won't know that the chorister singing, unaccompanied, this famous carol was chosen for the role just minutes before Programme Introduced by Richard Gowers Producer: Helen Lee
12/28/201827 minutes, 37 seconds
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To Be a Jedi

At the last UK Census in 2011 some 170,000 people registered their faith as Jedi. Easily outstripping any other kind of fictional religious faith. It’s a similar situation in many other countries. But what does this all mean? Clearly many are not serious but for thousands the light and the dark and the all powerful Force have real meaning. The Star Wars universe has been around so long it almost feels like an old religion, like The Force, everywhere and nowhere. For some it can be a path towards a better way of thinking or living. In this world there are Jediists and Jedi Realists and members of the Church of the Jedi. Many online and sharing ideas and beliefs which owe their origins to the world of Star Wars. George Lucas’s original stories where themselves a wholesale borrowing of Eastern and Western philosophies and beliefs made magical by the whirring, shining light sabres wielded by the ancient order of the Jedi Knights. Will Bond, a young musician and podcaster, himself in possession of Jedi Robes and a light sabre, goes in search of those who have taken the philosophy and spirituality of the Star Wars universe to heart and asks what it means to be a Jedi?
12/21/201826 minutes, 31 seconds
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Women making space in the mosque

The status and role of women in mosques in the United Kingdom is changing. Traditionally playing a secondary role, groups here now are training women to be more active in their religious communities and to help run mosques. Samira Ahmed meets the young British Muslims who are taking on new roles to find out why they want to do it, and how it will alter religious communities. Samira asks whether this greater say in the organisation of mosques mean a greater influence on the faith itself, where does God fit in with these plans and whether this is just satisfying a western liberal ideas, can there be a time when women will lead mixed prayer, do Muslim women really want other women guiding them through their faith? She will meet the young Muslims from the Inclusive Mosque Initiative exploring their faith and the role of women in it, forming new ideas about their religion, on, they hope. their own terms. Presenter: Samira Ahmed Producer: Lindsay Leonard (Photo: Rukhsana, one of Leicester City's female Islamic centre manager)
12/14/201826 minutes, 57 seconds
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Fighting Prejudice in Eudy’s Name

***Listeners may find some of the material in this programme upsetting.*** A grieving mother, Mally Simelane, is fighting to change her community’s view on homosexuality. Mally lives in the Kwa-Thema township near Johannesburg, where several gay women, including her daughter Eudy, have been murdered. Audrey Brown meets Mally, as well as her Pastor Smadz Matsepe, who have united to use their faith to fight cultural homophobia. South Africa was the first country in Africa to allow same sex marriage, and Audrey will explore how those rights haven’t necessarily translated into the real lives of poor women. Eudy played soccer for the South African national team, the Banyana Banyana, and Audrey hears from her teammates as they watch the 2018 World Cup to find out more about the lives of young gay women in the townships, and to Mally about the role of God in fighting for justice in her daughter’s name. Producer and Presenter: Audrey Brown Photo: Eudy Simelane’s parents sat at the bridge named in their daughter’s honour Credit: BBC
12/7/201827 minutes, 13 seconds
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Faith in Freedom: Daniel Genis

John McCarthy meets the people who have had to confront their own beliefs while held captive. Born into a Jewish family, but a committed atheist, Daniel Genis had an eventful life which led him to drug addiction, crime and then 10 years in one of Americas most notorious prisons. His time there meant he had time to explore his faith, plus the array of faiths of his fellow prisoners. As he saw out his sentences he keenly observed the role religion plays in prison, how many prisoners adopted a faith, many were open to faith because of their situation. Priests, Rabbis and Imams were more than eager to try and help them. In episode two of the series, he tells John McCarthy how his own ‘beliefs’ helped him, and how it shaped his idea of a God's role in prison. Presenter: John McCarthy Producer: Geoff Bird (Photo credit: Daniel Genis)
12/3/201826 minutes, 49 seconds
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Faith in Freedom: Maryam and Marziyeh

John McCarthy meets people who have had to confront their own beliefs while held captive. John who was held hostage by Islamic radical groups in Lebanon, speaks to two Iranian women who risked torture in one of the world’s most notorious prisons after being convicted of apostasy for spreading the message of Christianity in their strictly Islamic home country. Maryam Rostampour and Marziyeh Amirizadeh were known as the ‘dirty Christians’ in Evin prison where they suffered horrendous conditions and witnessed daily abuse. But this did not stop them from sharing the Gospel within the prison. But what the authorities didn't know was that they had distributed approximately twenty thousand bibles they had given out before they were sent to Evin. They now live in the US, and despite the daily horrors they witnessed, Maryam and Marziyeh see Evin as a church – somewhere they were placed by God to spread the word. But John will ask about their work now in a country where there is freedom to pray and preach. Presenter: John McCarthy Producer: Geoff Bird
12/3/201827 minutes, 23 seconds
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Faith in Freedom

Helen Berhane has the type of voice that you may think could only have come from God. There was a long time though when the only people who could hear her were her captors and the fellow inmates of the shipping container that was her gaol. In fact it was her singing that led to her being imprisoned, beaten and abused in her native Eritrea, after she refused to put a stop to her evangelising. In this first episode of Faith In Freedom, Helen tells John McCarthy about those two years of imprisonment and how she refused to denounce her faith.
11/16/201826 minutes, 44 seconds
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Young Catholics

The BBC’s Nuala McGovern is with an audience and panel of speakers to ask what the next generation of Catholics want from their Church. We are at the Teatro Flaiano in Rome, for Heart and Soul Gathering, as Bishops from all over the world gather with the Pope at the Vatican for a special meeting, or Synod, on Catholicism and the young. In March, over three hundred people aged between 16-29, plus fifteen thousand more on social media, came together in Rome, to say what is important to them and their faith. Heart and Soul Gathering continues that conversation and adds to the voices being heard now at the Synod. We bring together Catholics from across the globe, from countries such as Nigeria, Brazil and Samoa, to discuss their views on issues such as sexuality, leadership in the Church, and the role of women. How should the church engage with its young people? What are the priorities for young Catholics? This special Heart and Soul Gathering from the BBC World Service is the second programme in a series of faith-based community discussions. Produced by Louise Clarke-Rowbotham for the BBC World Service.
11/10/201849 minutes, 45 seconds
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Breaking the Seal

Whatever is said in the confessional stays in the confessional; it is a sacred, unyielding law throughout Catholicism, but in Australia it's now being challenged. In certain states laws are being introduced so priests can now be fined if they are found to have withheld information from the confessions of child abusers. Priests across the country have said they won’t adhere to the law, saying it breaks a sacred trust. But the Catholic church in Australia isn’t on steady ground. The law change is a recommendation from a Royal Commission which, over five years of hearings, revealed the enormous extent of sexual abuse by clergy and its cover up. Australia’s most senior Catholic, Cardinal George Pell, is facing a trial over charges related to abuse and an Archbishop has been found guilty of withholding information on a paedophile priest. Breaking the seal of the confessional can mean excommunication, withholding evidence could mean prosecution. It's a story that pits Church law against civil law. Janak Rogers will hear both sides of the row, hearing how the church is fighting to retain one of its most important laws. Image: Placards outside the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in Sydney on March 1, 2016 (Credit: AFP/Getty Images)
9/28/201826 minutes, 59 seconds
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Faith and Feminism in Brazil

Brazil has one of the worst records in the world for violence against women, and to combat these attitudes Nadiedja Souza is leading Brazilian women who are challenging the sexism of Brazil and she’s doing it using her Christian faith. Nadiedja travels from church to church across the state of Pernambuco educating women to challenge long held attitudes towards women, as well as dealing with the physical and psychological violence that often accompanies it. Women across Latin America have been calling for an end to femicide through the #notonefewer movement. In Brazil, Evangelical Protestant Christian women are pushing to challenge and transform rape culture and using the Bible to make their case. Zoe Sullivan follows Nadedja as she uses her own faith to educate churchgoers about rape culture and sexism. Brazilians have left the Catholic church to join Pentecostal churches in their millions in Brazil. Brazilians will vote in October for a new President and women’s rights are a central part of the campaign; the highly powerful and conservative Pentecostal churches are looking to gain even more political power. Presenter and Producer: Zoe Sullivan Image: NurPhoto /Contributor
9/21/201826 minutes, 39 seconds
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Heart and Soul Gathering: Birmingham, Alabama

Fifty years after the death of Rev Dr Martin Luther King, and in the era of campaigns such as Black Lives Matter, how are black churches relevant in the fight for social justice today? Two-time Emmy Award winning presenter Sherri Jackson asks a local audience and a panel of speakers about the role of Christianity in America's new civil rights movements. Sherri is joined by the next generation of activists and by those who were part of the original civil rights movement at 16th Street Baptist Church, an iconic city location which survived a 1963 bombing by members of the Ku Klux Klan and the murder of four young girls. Taking part in the discussion is the Rev Dr Bernard Lafayette, a civil rights activist and authority on non-violent social change, who was with Dr King on the day he was assassinated; Tef Poe, rapper and activist; Rev Eva Melton, activist, minister, and community organiser; Rev Arthur Price, the pastor of 16th Street Baptist Church; Laveeda Morgan Battle, lawyer, and member of St Paul United Methodist church; student and young activist Justin Smith. Producer: Louise Clarke-Rowbotham Photo: L-R Rev Eva Melton, Tef Poe, Rev Dr Bernard Lafayette, Sherri Jackson, Justin Smith, Laveeda Morgan Battle, Rev Arthur Price. Credit: BBC
9/15/201849 minutes, 55 seconds
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Hebron's Cave of Sacrifice

Abraham of the Old Testament, or Ibrahim of Islam, is a vital figure across Christianity, Islam and Judaism. His prophetic fame, arises from the story of his offering of one of his sons to God, because He commanded him so. God however, spared the son and a sacrificial lamb was offered instead. In the city of Hebron, are the Caves of The Patriarch where Abraham is said to be buried and above them stand a Mosque and Synagogue where Jews and Muslims pray. It is an uneasy understanding between two communities that share this ancient city and this home of worship. Lipika Pelham explores Hebron, the caves that are central to it and the faith of the people who live in this tense, disputed city. Photo: Hebron resident Kholoud in front of old town. Credit: BBC
9/14/201826 minutes, 44 seconds
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The Buddhist of Sri Lanka

Nihal Arthanayake was born into a Sri Lankan Buddhist family. As he grew up, he saw it as a peaceful and thoughtful religion - but now the traditionally peaceful faith has made headlines in Myanmar, Thailand and Sri Lanka with stories of violence and persecution. He returns to Sri Lanka to explore why Buddhists have been violently harassing the Muslim minority there. He witnesses monks in the orange robes recasting their role as peacemakers to defenders of a strident Sinhala-Buddhist nationalism. Nihal fears his faith has been corrupted, but there is an argument that may actually justify violence in Buddhism; one that was revealed in a text over 1500 years ago. Photo: Gnanasara Thero, Buddhist Monk and head of Bodu Bala Sena, a Sinhalese nationalist organisation Credit: BBC
9/6/201826 minutes, 39 seconds
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The Pope and a New Catholic Ireland

When Pope John Paul II came to Ireland in 1979, half the population turned out to see him, the BBC World Service presenter Nuala McGovern was amongst them. When Pope Francis arrives for the World Meeting of Families in Dublin, he will find a changed country and a Catholic Church rocked by the scandal of clerical sexual abuse. Nuala returns to her home city of Dublin, to find out if the “Francis Factor” can turn the tide of a Catholic Church whose once mighty hold on this country is has been undermined Pope Francis will certainly fine a more secular Ireland with the role of the church greatly diminished and changes to the constitution including the vote to legalise same sex marriage, reform to strict abortion laws and divorce. But not everyone has turned their back on the Church and there remains a core of faithful Catholics in this country of Saints and Scholars. Many will still come to see him, half a million tickets have been taken for the papal mass in Dublin's Phoenix Park and another visit to the shrine at Knock in the west of Ireland, was booked out within hours. Nuala discovers ash returns home that its more than just the waning influence of the Catholic Church that has caused this most radical shift in culture and country. Photo: Pope Francis Credit: Vatican Pool/Getty Images
8/24/201826 minutes, 39 seconds
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Ibtihaj Muhammed: A Journey Bigger than Me

Ibtihaj Muhammad has had many firsts in her career in fencing. An African American Muslim woman, she was the first athlete from the U.S. to compete at the Olympics. Her team won bronze at the 2016 Rio Olympics. But at the same time, the U.S. presidential campaign back home was revealing a strong anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim in the very country she was representing. Muhammad tells David McGuire about what drives her fighting spirit, and the place of Islam in her success. Photo: Fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad won a bronze medal at the Olympics for the US in 2016. Credit: Getty
8/17/201826 minutes, 41 seconds
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Unearthing the Past in Srebrenica

On July the 11th every year, the bodies of those who Sasa helped to identify over the past 12 months are re-buried in a Muslim service and Anna will witness the ceremony at the sprawling Potocari Cemetery and meet the families on a pilgrimage to honour the ones they loved and lost. Anna Holligan has listened to the details of unspeakable terror as the BBC’s correspondent in The Hague and will travel to the scenes of Mladic’s crimes to meet the Muslim families still haunted by the war of 25 years ago and the massacre of thousands at Srebrenica. Sasa was four years old when soldiers drove into his home town of Mostar – his family was a mix of Bosnian Muslim and Serbian Orthodox and the war ripped it apart. He is now a translator, and recently worked at the trial of Ratko Mladic. Samir Chosić is shovelling earth, a job that stirs his own painful memories of fleeing for his life, as thirty-five freshly dug graves readied for fragments of bones to be laid to rest. An estimated 12,000 people of all faiths, Muslims, Christians, Jews and others are still missing - feared slaughtered - right across this troubled Balkan territory. As she travels around Bosnia-Herzegovina, Anna witnesses a country officially at peace, but more religiously divided than it was before the war. Presented by Anna Holligan Photo title: The 11th July memorial at Srebrenica, Bosnia-Herzegovina Credit: BBC
7/27/201826 minutes, 50 seconds
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Stepping on Bones - Solovki and Russia's Past

Founded in the 15th century on a remote archipelago in the White Sea, Solovetsky monastery (or “Solovki”) was once one of Russia’s most religious sites. But in the 20th century Solovki gained notoriety as the “Mother of Gulags” – the first and most brutal of the concentration camps of the Soviet time, a stark embodiment of repression. With the fall of the communism in the early 1990's, the monastery was re-established though and a small group of monks were allowed to settle. Monks and historians have worked together to keep the dual-legacy of Solovki alive, but spiritual revival on the bones of the dead has proved complicated; the Russian Orthodox Church wants to make the entire archipelago the stronghold of belief it had once been, while historians and human rights activists say that traces of Gulag are being gradually and forcibly removed. Natalia Golysheva, whose grandfather was a Gulag prisoner, explores Solovki’s legacy. She joins pilgrims on their journey to the far-off skits, hears from local residents and speaks to the granddaughter of perhaps the most famous Gulag survivor Dmitry Likhachov asking her what Solovki represents in modern day Russia. Is it a place of religious worship or a memorial to its most painful past, and will reconciliation ever be possible? Produced and Presented by Natalia Golysheva (Geyser Media) for BBC World Service Image: Nadezhda Terekhova
7/24/201827 minutes, 4 seconds
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God's Word at the World's Borders

At the end of a week when President Donald Trump visited European countries, immigration was one of the many issues which has made the headlines The President used his visit to say that immigration has "changed the fabric of Europe" and that "allowing millions and millions of people to come into Europe is very, very sad.” Across the globe the faithful are divided in their view on immigrants and both sides use scripture to defend their positions. The Pope has used the word ‘immoral’ in relation to European migration policies, the head Rabbi of British Reform Judaism warns of an impending genocide as migrants are 'dehumanized', while the Prime Minister of Hungary says Christianity is Europe’s last hope to save itself. There are millions who are defiantly anti-immigration who are also devoted to their faith and the word of God. There are millions more – also people of faith - who utterly disagree with them. In God’s Word at the World’s Borders, Heart and Soul examines the passionate debate around religion and migration and how owns the biblical word when debating immigration Photo: The Rev. Al Sharpton joins other members of an interfaith delegation of 40 religious leaders in McAllen, Texas Credit: Getty Images
7/16/201826 minutes, 28 seconds
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Uzbekistan: The Country of a Hundred Shrines

Uzbekistan - the most populous country in Central Asia is, is sometimes called the country of a hundred shrines or the “second Mecca”. It is home to hundreds of well-preserved mosques, madrasas, bazaars and mausoleums, dating largely from the 9th to the 17th centuries, almost untarnished by the time. In fact, many shrines find their roots in pre-Islamic and pagan times. The strict Soviet anti-religion stance couldn’t stop believers from paying respect their holy sites of pilgrimage. Neither could the Muslim Ulema who say that visiting shrines may contradict Islamic teachings. Locked for most of the past 150 years under the Russian rule, it emerged as an independent nation in 1991 – only to slide into a totalitarian state with restricted religious freedoms. Poverty, the loss of identity and the closeness to volatile neighbours such as Afghanistan and Tajikistan have contributed to the spread of radicalisation. Hundreds of Uzbeks fight alongside militants in Pakistan, Afghanistan and the Mideast. In the last couple of years several radicalised Uzbeks committed terror attacks in the USA, Europe and Russia prompting the fears that the many young Uzbeks might be joining militant Islamist groups. Now the new Uzbek government is ready to restore and open all shrines to public in a bid to boost tourism and most importantly – to fight the growing radicalism among young Uzbeks. Rustam Qobil travels to the ancient cities of Bukhara and Samarkand in his native Uzbekistan to find out if the increased interest to shrines can indeed stop radicalism. Presenter: Rustam Qobil Producer: Natalia Golysheva Photo Credit: Festival of Silk and Spices, Bukhara Natalia Golysheva/ BBC
6/30/201826 minutes, 29 seconds
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Faith Based Farms

Across the United States communities are growing of people choosing to live, work and worship together. Colm Flynn takes to the farms and fields to meet the Muslims, Christians and even a Druid who want to show their faith through a shared love of farming. He travels to the states of New Jersey, Wisconsin and Michigan to meet the diverse groups who express their faith through getting their hands dirty. In the summer heat as they celebrate the holy month of Ramadan, Trinka tells Colm how she hopes that by valuing Gods earth while she was alive Allah will reward her in death. Photo credit: Michael Edwardson, head farmer at Plain Song Farm. Colm Flynn/BBC
6/22/201826 minutes, 29 seconds
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Uluru: Reclaiming Creation Stories

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are advised that the following program contains images and voices of people who have died. From next year tourists will not be allowed to climb Uluru in the Australian outback. It comes after years of campaigning by the owners of the site, the Anangu Aborigines. The Anangu date their origins back 60,000 years and claim a deep and ancient link between the rock and their spirituality. Climbing has violated that, they say; it's like tourists clambering over temples or sacred remains. For them the rock has played a big part in their ceremonies and rites of passage. Rebecca Henschke meets the Anangu to hear just how strong a role Uluru plays in their Dreamtime stories passed on from their ancestors which provide the basis for their spiritual lives and uncovers her own family connection to the rock. Photo: Pamela Taylor, an Anangu elder and a traditional owner of Uluru Credit: BBC
6/8/201826 minutes, 46 seconds
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Building Anatevka

The community of Anatevka near the Ukrainian capital Kiev has been created to especially welcome Jews from war-torn Eastern Ukraine. Construction started in 2015, and it was named after a hometown of Tevye the Dairyman, from the musical "Fiddler on the Roof". There is no requirement for the refugees who settle in Anatevka to be observant Jews. Many of them had no chance to practice their religion in what was then the atheistic Soviet Union. Olga Smirnova follows them as they observe Jewish religious festivities, attend the Torah lessons and prepare for the opening of the new religious school for boys. Olga speaks to the new arrivals and those who have already settled in Anatevka. She talks to the founder Rabbi Moshe Azman about the aims of the project and its benefits. What are the particular difficulties about building a new community? Olga explores how this community interact with other Ukrainian villages nearby. As we spend time with this unique project for a permanent Jewish home for those fleeing war, we hear stories of the refugees and learn about the military actions in Eastern Ukraine that forced many to leave their homes. Photo: Building the Cheder Credit: BBC
5/25/201826 minutes, 49 seconds
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Canada's Search for a Papal Apology

This is a story of a community trying to heal, but a warning; there are descriptions of abuse in this programme that may be upsetting. Pope Francis is refusing to bow to pressure to apologise to Canada's indigenous people for the Catholic church's abuse of thousands of children For more than 100 years First Nations, Metis and Inuit children were forcibly removed from their homes and sent to these church-run boarding schools. Many were beaten, starved and sexually abused. They were forbidden from speaking their native languages and had their culture stripped from them. Thousands died, far away from their families. Canada's Truth and Reconciliation Commission has recommended that the Pope come to Canada to make an apology - similar to the one made to Irish victims of abuse. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has also asked the Pope to do so. But Francis has simply said that he cannot 'personally respond'. Why won't Pope Francis make the same apology to Canada's indigenous people that has been made to other victims? And what would an apology from the Catholic Church mean to indigenous people of faith? Produced and Presented by Jennifer Chevalier for BBC World Service Photo: Cross Lake School. Credit: Library and Archives Canada - by permission
5/18/201826 minutes, 47 seconds
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Faith Under Fire

The following programme tells the story of a mass shooting in a small church in Sutherland Springs Texas and how it affected the faith of the community and the church's pastor Frank Pomeroy. A warning, there are graphic and potentially upsetting references to the shooting throughout the programme. As a gun man calmly walked into his church during its normal Sunday service and shot dead 26 of his parishioners, including his 14 year old daughter, Pastor Frank Pomeroy, was absent, miles away from his flock on a course to get a gun license, so he could teach teenagers how to handle firearms responsibly. It was the worst mass shooting in the history of the state of Texas, and gun ownership is one of the most divisive issues in the USA. Six months on, Pastor Frank talks of how this tragedy has affected his faith, and how the community have been able to keep going. He also tells Colm Flynn about how, as he stands in front of his flock to preach, he has his own concealed weapon while preaching, and how the Bible justifies both him and his congregation being armed. Pastor Frank believes God was there on that fatal day, that the blood spilt was not in vain, but that God will use it to bring about a Christian Revival. Photo: Memorial to the victims of First Baptist Church, Sutherland Springs, Texas/Credit: BBC
5/14/201826 minutes, 51 seconds
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Morocco's Jews: Hospitality or Hostility?

Morocco's Jewish community was once the biggest in the Muslim world. More than a quarter of a million Jews called the North African country home. Most Moroccan Jews left after the establishment of Israel in 1940s and 50s. The understanding between the two religious communities, who used to live side by side, has slowly been forgotten. Young people especially feel a growing disconnect with the communities of the past. Many Muslim Moroccan's are bringing a middle eastern Islam to the country; different to Morocco's traditionally Sufi inspired moderate version of the faith Nina Robinson asks what the future will be for the co-existence of Muslim and Jewish communities in this unique Muslim country? Presenter/Producer: Nina Robinson Singer - Vanessa Paloma, Guitar - Ahmed Guendouz , Lute - Driss Nigra Photo credit: Moroccan Jewish man: FADEL SENNA/AFP/Getty Images
5/6/201827 minutes, 34 seconds
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Ageing with Grace

Marie-Louise Muir tells the story of the Nun Study; a pioneering study, started in America in the 1980s, which brought a young epidemiologist together with a group of Catholic Sisters to examine the mysteries of ageing and Alzheimer’s. In 1986 Dr David Snowdon approached the sisters at the convent of the School Sisters of Notre Dame in Minnesota. An order of Catholic sisters with their uniform life-styles were perfect for an examination of the ageing process. It was the beginning of a study which experts still consider to be one of the most innovative efforts to answer questions about who gets Alzheimer's disease and why. An unlikely friendship developed between Snowdon and the sisters. Some of the nuns recall how they would look forward to the annual cognitive and memory tests. "We cared about Dr Snowdon and he cared about us", says one of the nuns. "He would walk with us and talk with us and we looked forward to his visits." A breakthrough came when the Snowdon team came across a filing cabinet full of diaries written by the sisters when they’d entered the order. The team worked out that those sisters who used more complex sentences and ideas were less likely to develop Alzheimer’s later on. As they died, the brain of each sister was analysed for further information and these samples are now stored at the University of Minnesota along with the brains of other sisters who have continued to participate in this extraordinary longitudinal study. We hear the voices of some of the original Snowdon team as well as neurologists working in the field of Alzheimer’s and some of the nuns themselves. Image: Two nuns walk through a forest, Credit: Getty Images
4/27/201826 minutes, 31 seconds
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Crossing Divides: The Sacred Legitimisation to Fight

Warning: The following programme tells the stories of the child soldiers who took part in Indonesia’s religious conflict that erupted in the Moluccas in 1999. It is ultimately about peace and reconciliation, but a warning, there are graphic and potentially upsetting references to violence committed during that period Hundreds of child militants are believed to have taken part in Indonesia’s bloodiest religious conflict. On the island of Ambon there were roughly the same number of Christians and Muslims but in the 1970s, under a state sponsored programme, thousands of Muslims were moved there, In the chaotic years after the fall of President Soeharto, religious tension boiled over into deadly violence. When the worst of the killings ended three years later, the children who had taken part in almost unimaginable atrocities were left living in deeply divided communities along religious lines. Rebecca Henschke travels to Ambon, to meet two former child soldiers, Iskandar and Ronal, one Christian, one Muslim, who have been transformed from being killing machines to agents of peace, actively working to bring together the communities they once helped divide. Photo: Ronal Reagan/BBC
4/23/201826 minutes, 55 seconds
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Faith and Healing

How is faith tested at our weakest and most vulnerable moments? When Caroline Wyatt was 12 years old she announced she wanted to be the first female Pope. With that career path closed off to her she became a journalist and eventually the BBC’s Religious Affairs correspondent, going onto meet Pope Francis on a foreign trip She now has Multiple Sclerosis, sending her spiralling into doubt about her faith. In a deeply personal programme she shares the battle she is fighting with her own body and her faith. Caroline sets out on a journey of exploration, seeking answers by talking to other people of different faiths to her but also facing a lifetime of chronic illness about how they reconcile their pain, suffering, fear and doubt with their beliefs. Producer: Lissa Cook Credit: Clip of Gutted with kind permission of Liz Richardson. Written by Liz Richardson and Tara Robinson, co-produced by The Conker Group and HOME Manchester. (Photo: Candles. Credit: Getty Images)
4/17/201827 minutes, 3 seconds
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My Life and Faith in Jerusalem

Jerusalem is the most religiously contentious city in the world On the weekend that Easter coincides with Passover and after President Trump’s controversial declaration of it as the capital of Israel, Lipika Pelham takes a journey around this contested city, talking to Jerusalemites who tell her how their faiths and lives are interconnected. She meets the Muslim who for 40 years has kept the Dome of the Rock clean, the devoted Jews praying at the sacred walls to explore how they are waiting at that very spot for the Third Temple to be rebuilt, and at Easter she joins Christians to walk the route taken by Jesus to his eventual crucifixion on Good Friday The religious and the political is constantly interwoven in this beautiful but complex city, Lipika will hear from worshippers from these three faiths to hear how Jerusalem is the centre of the believers’ spiritual quest. Producer and Presenter: Lipika Pelham Photo: Dome of the Rock Credit: Getty Images
4/1/201826 minutes, 59 seconds
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Faith in Freedom: Shahbaz Taseer

John McCarthy was held hostage for five years in Lebanon; it would test not only of his mental resolve but also his faith. In this three-part season for Heart and Soul John meets three people of three different religions held against their will. John talks to them about how their faith sustained them in their darkest hours of captivity, including physical and psychological torture. John shares his own experiences of being held in Beirut and how for him, the Bible was a crucial source of information, entertainment and comfort. Shahbaz Taseer was a hostage for more than four and a half years after being kidnapped at gunpoint, only seven months after his father, Salman Taseer, the Governor of Punjab, was assassinated by his own bodyguard for defending a Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy. In a remarkable interview for Faith in Freedom, Shahbaz tells John McCarthy how, having rejected Islam while growing up, he read the Quran for the first time in his cell, with only his mufti guard as his spiritual guide. And John hears how the stories of prophets, like Jonah, helped preserve his sanity Now, 2 years after his release, he has come to see his survival of torture as a miracle which has transformed his life. Produced by Lissa Cook for BBC World Service. Image: Prison Bars, Credit: BBC
3/18/201826 minutes, 45 seconds
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Faith in Freedom: Dr Sina Hakiman

John McCarthy was held hostage for five years in Lebanon; it would test not only of his mental resolve but also his faith. In this three-part season for Heart and Soul, John meets three people of three different religions held against their will. John talks to them about how their faith sustained them in their darkest hours of captivity, including physical and psychological torture. John shares his own experiences of being held in Beirut and how for him, the Bible was a crucial source of information, entertainment and comfort. In the second part of Faith in Freedom John meets Dr Sina Hakiman, imprisoned three times by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, accused of heresy. In total he spent more than seven years in jail in the years after the return of Ayatollah Khomeini to Tehran. He now lives in exile in the UK. Sina explains to John his belief that all religions are valid and that Baha’u’llah is the latest prophet of God following Moses, Muhammed and Jesus. Sustained by a philosophy of ‘constructive resilience’ he worked inside the prison as a doctor, while his wife Sholeh continued her husband’s fight for his human rights by setting up a medical clinic. Thanks to the Baha’i Blog ( ) for kind permission to use their recording of Behzad Khoshmashrab chanting “Aye Jan Feshan” ( ). Excerpts from the footage of the trial of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahai’s in Iran, ‘An Assembly Executed’, were used with kind permission of the Taslimi Foundation ( ) Produced by Lissa Cook
3/13/201827 minutes, 6 seconds
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Faith in Freedom: Ingrid Betancourt

John McCarthy was held hostage for five years in Lebanon; it would test not only of his mental resolve but also his faith. In this three-part season for Heart and Soul John meets three people of three different religions held against their will. John talks to them about how their faith sustained them in their darkest hours of captivity, including physical and psychological torture. John shares his own experiences of being held in Beirut and how for him, the Bible was a crucial source of information, entertainment and comfort. In the first programme John meets the French-Colombian former politician Ingrid Betancourt who was held hostage in the jungle by the FARC (The Revolutionary Armed Forced of Colombia) for six and a half years. Captured in 2002, she was rescued by the army in 2008. Ten years later, she meets John at Harris Manchester College in Oxford where she is studying for a PhD in Theology. Catholic by family background rather than conviction she tells John about her incredible journey from despair, believing God had forsaken her, to coming to see Jesus and Mary as her spiritual guides in captivity. Ingrid Betancourt is also a speaker for HeadTalks, a non-profit organisation that holds events on mental health.
3/4/201827 minutes, 18 seconds
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Escaping 'America’s Most Hated Family'

Libby Phelps is the granddaughter of the founder of Westboro Baptist Church, Fred Phelps. Nicknamed “America’s Most Hated Family”, the church in Kansas became infamous for telling homosexuals they were going to hell and picketing the funerals of US soldiers. But it was after the church rejoiced in the attacks of 11 September, that Libby questioned her faith, packed her bags and left - she escaped from the church. Today she now advocates for the LGBT community, the people she once condemned to hell. As a young girl Libby would attend school and play with her friends during the week, but at the weekend she and her siblings would be brought out to picket, hold placards and spread their hate-filled messages. She was convinced that they were the chosen ones, God's messengers on Earth, and the only ones destined for salvation and that the rest of the world was going to Hell. Colm Flynn meets Libby to hear her story and visits the Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas. (Image: Libby Phelps. Credit: BBC)
2/25/201826 minutes, 51 seconds
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The Right Thing: Life or Death in the DRC

Sasha Chanoff is a humanitarian worker descended from Jewish great-grandparents who fled the early 20th Century pogroms in Russia and settled in the United States. The story of his courageous and resourceful great-grandmother inspired Sasha to work with refugees in war-torn parts of Africa. And it was there, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, that he faced a life-or-death choice. Then, in his mid-20s, Sasha was part of a small rescue team deployed to evacuate 112 Tutsi survivors of a massacre. Strictly no more, as the International Organisation for Migration feared that taking anyone extra would jeopardise the entire mission. But then Sasha and his Muslim colleague Sheikha Ali found 32 widows and orphans who were not part of the quota, all close to death. They knew that these women and children were almost certain to perish if they left them behind – but disobeying instructions and taking them would endanger everyone else on the last evacuation flight. Mike Wooldridge hears what happened next from Sasha himself, two of his colleagues, and survivors of that hazardous mission. (Photo: Sasha Chanoff stands next to a hired armed guard in the safe compound outside Kinshasa, courtesy of Sasha Chanoff)
1/26/201826 minutes, 31 seconds
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Finding Shelter In Germany's Cities of Refuge

Germany has gained itself the role as Europe’s great provider of sanctuary for some of the millions of refugees that have fled from the most troubled parts of the world. But Chancellor Angela Merkel has come under fierce criticism over the million plus people who’ve sought asylum over the past two years, leading to her having to fight over the past days to retain her seemingly invincible power. Churches, both Protestant and Catholic are defying the state and public opinion by opening their doors to offer refuge to migrants even though the state wants to send them home. Dale Gavlak meets Christians who tell her they don’t ask if someone believes in the Christian God, to them they are all children of one God. But not all people of faith feel that churches should offer migrants a roof despite their often horrific stories. Taking a Christian stance on people in need, seems to be clashing with a fractious political mood in Germany.
1/14/201826 minutes, 29 seconds
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Preaching Across the Divide

Naco Christian Church serves a small but devout congregation, Jesse Wood, its pastor spends hours in his pick-up, driving around meeting and praying with his parishioners. His journey routinely takes him across the US – Mexico border, because his church straddles these two countries Division and misunderstanding are real and potential problems. Pastor Jesse responds by using the gospels to teach that all barriers must be done away with, not by disregarding or destroying boundaries but by learning to interact with people on a level that transcends those boundaries. Will Grant attends the bi-lingual services, Jesse delivers a service in the US on Sunday morning then drives four blocks to deliver a service in Mexico in an attempt to find unique ways to connect with people. Will travels with Jesse, deep into the Mexico countryside to meet Maria, struggling to make a living from the scrub countryside and how her faith sustains her. The call by President Trump for a huge wall to halt the migration from Mexico was hugely controversial and Will finds whether it has divided the worshippers on the US side of Naco Church and their Mexican counterparts.
1/7/201827 minutes
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Iceland's Dark Lullabies

At the darkest time of the year in Iceland scary creatures come out to play. Storyteller Andri Snaer Magnason used to be terrified by his grandmother's Christmas tales of Gryla, the hag who eats children, and her 13 troll sons - the Yule Lads - who would come down from the mountains looking for naughty children in the warmth of their homes. These dark lullabies partly hark back to a pre-Christian Christmas when the Norse gods dominated peoples’ lives. As Iceland opens up to global influences after centuries of isolation, Andri travels from farmstead to lava field to find out how these traditions live on; whether the elves still crash your house to throw a Christmas party or the cows still talk on New Year’s Eve. And what happens when you have to spend Christmas alone, locked inside a suburban furniture showroom? Image: A pile of stones and a volcanic path, Credit: Getty Images
12/29/201726 minutes, 32 seconds
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The Icon Painters of Bethlehem

The lives of young Palestinian Christians are being transformed by this ancient spiritual art. At the heart of Bethlehem's old city sits the Bethlehem Icon Centre, a school training local Palestinian Christians to become icon painters - some of them to a professional standard. Unique in the Middle East, the school is best known for Our Lady of the Wall, a large-scale, striking image of the Virgin Mary painted onto the Israeli security barrier. Its founder is a British icon painter, Ian Knowles, who aims to help Palestinian Christians reconnect with a nearly lost part of their spiritual heritage - and give some of them a skill that can feed a family in a difficult economic climate. Mark Dowd visits Ian and his students at their studio in Bethlehem to discover what it means to them to study this ancient Christian art in Christ’s birthplace - in a town where Christians are now in the minority following large-scale emigration, and which has the highest unemployment rate anywhere in the West Bank. Away from the school, we meet some of the students' families and local traders who sell Christian crafts to find out more about what it means to be a Christian in Bethlehem. Despite all the economic hardships, preparing for Christmas in Bethlehem is still special to the students who are making icons of the Madonna and child. Image: A student at work on the icon of a saint, Credit: With kind permission of the Bethlehem Icon Centre
12/22/201727 minutes, 14 seconds
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Christianity and White Supremacy in Charlottesville

Charlottesville in the American state of Virginia, was thrust into the limelight in the late summer when white supremacists groups violently clashed with counter demonstrators The city is Jane Little’s home town, and she will find that even before the events of the summer, religious leaders had been long been mobilizing against alt-right groups following two previous demonstrations. The tactics they are taught mirror those used by leaders of the Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s. As the violence escalated in Charlottesville, clergy were called upon for help, in some cases even before the Police could arrive, often running straight into trouble. Sometimes a clergy presence would calm a situation but Jane will meet clergy who on that day suffered violent attacks. She meets Rev. Osagyefo Sekou, pastor, activist, singer and the spiritual head of a movement of non-violent resistance, which he hopes to spread across the United States Can a faith response though in reaction to the threat of violence between such polarised groups be enough? Presenter: Jane Little Production: Jane Little and Louise Clarke-Rowbotham
12/17/201727 minutes, 4 seconds
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Eritrea to Huddersfield

Pastor Daniel Habteys journey to becoming a church leader in the north of England has taken him through the toughest of tests. In 2002 he fled persecution and imprisonment in his native Eritrea because of his Christian faith. After spending a fortnight crossing the Sahara Desert in the back of a pick-up truck, he, his wife and their baby daughter almost lost their lives while making the treacherous journey across the Mediterranean to Italy. Now, he leads English and Eritrean worship at his church and offers practical, spiritual and emotional support to the many asylum seekers and refugees who pass through this West Yorkshire town. Refugees and worshippers share the impact Daniel has had on their community and faith.
12/10/201727 minutes, 39 seconds
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New Life with Old Belief

Old Belief communities formed as a result of Russian Orthodox Church theological reforms of the 17th century. After a period of torture and mass executions and unrecognised by the state, Old Believers were forced to go underground or move to unreachable parts of this vast country, where they lived independent of state and official church. The Revolution of 1917 led to a further exodus – even as far as Latin America. In the last decade, the population decline led the Russian government to invite families to return "home", to practice their faith in the land of their fathers, only to find fierce opposition from neighbours and local authorities. Natalia Golysheva travels to the Far East in Russia to meet the Old Believers, who relocated here from Bolivia after a century in exile. Here, in Dersu village they find salvation in their own community, refute most technological advances and home school their children. Natalia takes part in the community’s rituals Old Believers have carefully preserved, but not before they also put her through an unexpected test. Why is it important for them to return to Russia to practice their faith? Why continue to stay despite all the hardships? Produced and Presented by Natalia Golysheva Picture: Murachev family in Dersu village, Far East of Russia. Credit: PrimDiscovery/ Alexander Khitrov
11/26/201726 minutes, 29 seconds
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Being Muslim in Manchester - One Love?

Baktash Noori is a 23-year-old practising Muslim Mancunian YouTube vlogger. He lives just five minutes drive from the Manchester Arena where, six months ago, 22 people were killed by suicide bomber. In the days after the attack his parents were warning him to stay off the streets, worried that the colour of his skin and his faith would make him a target for attack. Instead Baktash took to the Manchester streets, blindfolded, with a cardboard sign inviting people to give him a hug. Scared of the reaction right up until the minute he covered his eyes, he says he did not receive a single negative comment. The video he posted has been viewed nearly a million times. He received 5,000 positive emails in three days and had to switch his phone off because his social media notifications were buzzing non-stop. Abdullah Rashid Vavdiwala was one of the many Muslim taxi drivers who also hit the headlines in the hours and days after the bombing for giving free taxi rides to anyone stranded in the wake of the bomb. Both are men of faith who personified the ‘We Love Manchester’ spirit. For Heart and Soul, Athar Ahmed takes a trip round the city six months on from that horrific night with Baktash behind the microphone and Abdullah at the wheel. They talk to 93-year-old Renee Black – the Jewish representative on the Blackburn Interfaith Initiative – whose tears in Albert Square as she stood next to her friend Sadiq Patel summed up the interfaith community’s response and became one of the iconic images of the city’s shared grief. They also discuss whether faith can withstand such a terrible tragedy with Gibran Awan and his two sisters who were at the arena for the Ariana Grande concert on the night of the attack. And they visit the Villa Road mosque in Oldham, fire bombed in the hours after the attack, to explore whether the ‘One Love’ response represents the real heart and soul of Manchester or is it a convenient veneer hiding the more unpalatable truth about our suspicions about Muslims and the knee-jerk association with terrorism. Producer: Lissa Cook
11/19/201726 minutes, 53 seconds
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Jesus Lived in the Townships

Audrey Brown is in South Africa to meet Pastor Xola Skosana. After nearly 20 years of ministering to a congregation impoverished by the legacy of apartheid he has rejected his Christian faith. It is a controversial message and uncomfortable for many Christians, but it is a message which has tapped into a bigger narrative in this troubled country. We hear how Xola struggled with his faith, and why he no longer sees his faith in the white Jesus of the established church.
11/15/201726 minutes, 44 seconds
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Africa’s Mother

Mercy Amba-Oduoye is a true reformer; in fact in her native Ghana she embodies the phrase. She is called the Mother of African Feminist Christian Theology and is globally recognised as the leader of a movement that has constantly challenged the male preconception of being ‘a good girl’ a phrase in Africa which means not questioning the established role and place of young women. In the third programme in the special season on Heart and Soul focussing on reforming faith, Anne Soy travels to Accra, the Ghanaian capital, to meet Mercy to find out how she has channelled her faith to educate young Ghanaian women – and those in other parts of Africa - that many of the practices that have become part of life for women such as polygamy, marital rape or FGM have no theological basis. Mercy, now well into her 80’s, will tell Anne that male-led faiths have allowed many of these practices to go unquestioned, and how she has given over her life to God to disrupt and challenge the deeply entrenched thinking and attitudes in countries where religious and spiritual leader have such an influence on society and culture Presenter: Anne Soy Production: Anne Soy and Sulley Lansah Image: Anne Soy
10/30/201727 minutes, 11 seconds
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An Equal Partnership?

Dotted around London, in the concentrated areas where Orthodox Jews have made their home, groups of believers meet to pray and share their faith. Nothing unusual in that, but what make these gatherings significant are that women are leading the prayers, and they are sharing their celebration with men, These prayer groups are called Partnership Minyans, and have become a symbol of a major shift in Judaism making many traditional believers extremely uncomfortable With a panel in London, Emma Barnett asks what does this mean for this deeply traditional faith? Does this challenge to the structures of worship signal a new era of feminism with Orthodox Judaism? In the second programme of our special series to mark the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation led by Martin Luther, which split the Catholic church, Emma leads a panel discussion from the JW3 centre in north London to meet the ‘reformers’ to explore how they want their faith to change its attitudes to women and those whose resistance to it is based on the centuries old deep teaching of their faith. Presenter: Emma Barnett Producer: Richard McIlroy
10/22/201726 minutes, 52 seconds
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Are Muslims Ready for a Female Imam like Seyran Ates?

To mark the 500th anniversary idea of Reformation which spilt Christianity, Heart and Soul investigates the role of women in disrupting the status quo and challenging the traditions in three of the main religions that have been preserved, in many cases, for centuries. In this first programme, Samira Ahmed is in Copenhagen, Denmark, to explore whether Islam will ever properly embrace the idea that women can become Imams, prayer leaders, give sermons and offer guidance to both men and women. Copenhagen is the home to Sherin Khankan who made headlines around the world for opening a Mosque that promised equal status for women and aimed to include gay Muslims within its community. Opposition to the Mosque has been swift and vitriolic, a sign of the polarising argument that the scriptures simply do not support prayers led by a woman. Samira Ahmed is joined by Seyran Ates, the most controversial of female Imams, who tells her how she received death threats after she opened her ‘female-friendly’ Mosque in Berlin. Many countries in northern Europe are experiencing a shift in their racial and religious landscape due to a new wave of migration, but against this backdrop are small but significant challenges to the idea that religious leaders have to always be men. In Copenhagen, Samira heads a panel to ask whether this is a sustainable feminist challenge and the green shoots of a long term reform, or an ideal destined to fail in a faith where roles are very clearly defined. Presenter: Samira Ahmed Producer: Lissa Cook and Richard McIlroy (Photo: Seyran Ates)
10/15/201726 minutes, 48 seconds
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Underground Islam in Italy

Unlike Christianity and Judaism, Islam is not recognised in Italy. There are only eight officially recognised mosques and that is despite being home to the fourth largest Muslim population in Europe. The recent government crackdown on the estimated 2,000 makeshift ‘garage’ mosques across Italy has led to mass protests. The government have introduced a new ‘National Pact for an Italian Islam' but Muslims in Italy argue it’s not enough, the government though claims, it is a step forward in the recognition of the faith. Helen Grady visits the officially recognised Great Mosque of Rome, Europe’s largest mosque. Speaking to its Imam, he tells her that since February he is now being told he needs to preach his sermons in Italian even though no other religious group is made to do this. Presenter: Helen Grady Producer: Claire Press Picture: Claire Press / Helen Grady
10/1/201726 minutes, 45 seconds
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Fighting for Their Forest Faith

Indonesia is the world’s largest Muslim country. There are hundreds of indigenous faiths, practised for centuries. They are not recognised by the State and are viewed as unbelievers. Rebecca Henschke travels through some of the world’s last remaining rainforest to meet the Orang Rimba – people of the jungle. She meets those who are trying to preserve their nomadic way of life and those who, after losing their forest, are being forced by the state to convert. To read more and see Rebecca's report then go to (Photo: Children from the Orang Rimba tribe, whose name translates as 'jungle people', who have been converted to Islam and given up their nomadic ways. Credit: Goh Chai Hin/AFP)
9/27/201726 minutes, 59 seconds
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A Square Dance in Heaven

For Martin Luther, music, with its power to move emotions, was an “inexpressible miracle” second only to Theology. When people engage in music, said Luther, singing in four or five parts, it is like a “square dance in heaven.” For Heart and Soul, The Rev Lucy Winkett, Anglican priest, singer and Bach enthusiast, takes a musical tour of the Reformation. The programme opens in the Georgenkirche in Eisenach, Germany, where Bach was baptised and both Luther and he were choirboys, separated by two centuries. Luther’s ideas about music were to have a decisive influence on its development in Germany. Indeed, as Lucy finds out, the dominance of German music from the 17th to 19th centuries would not have happened without him. The Lutheran Church, with its hymns and chorales, was the seedbed for the choral and liturgical works of Germany’s greatest composers. No Luther, no Bach. It’s that simple.
9/17/201726 minutes, 29 seconds
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The Tree Spirits: The Bodhi Tree

Climate change and security concerns are threatening one of Buddhism's most sacred sites. The Bodhi Tree, in northern India, is believed to be descended from the actual tree under which Buddha gained enlightenment, the tree came under attack from suspected Islamist terrorists in 2013. Several bombs exploded around the temple, and there are fears that security is not tight enough prevent a similar attack in the future. Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims visit from around the globe every year, but is their safety being looked after by the Indian authorities? Anna Lewington tells the story of The Bodhi Tree. She asks if climate change is threatening this sacred site and discusses the place of trees in the spiritual life of India. (Photo: Sunlight seen through the leaves of a Bodhi tree. Credit: Getty Images)
8/18/201726 minutes, 31 seconds
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Faith in the Fire

On the night the Grenfell Tower fire began on 14 June 2017, the mosques and churches which encircle the tower block in Kensington, West London, provided bases for vital relief work. It was Ramadan so many Muslim faithful were returning from prayers when the fire started, and they were able to alert residents and help people get out of the burning building. In the hours and days that followed, in one of the richest areas of one of the wealthiest cities in the world, people of all religions were mobilised in the crisis and came together to offer crucial pastoral support and practical help, while the authorities were accused of being slow to respond. Presenter Zubeida Malik meets the residents and religious leaders to find out what happened that night and how they continue to administer emotional support and funeral prayers in the aftermath of the tragedy. And she asks them what kind of answers faith can provide in such a crisis. Produced by Melissa FitzGerald. Picture: The burnt-out remains of Grenfell Tower and a church spire, Credit: Samuel Hauenstein-Swan
8/14/201726 minutes, 30 seconds
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The Jamaican Bible Remixed

Christianity has been part of Jamaica for 500 years and it’s said there is a church on every corner. Christian worship is conducted from the King James bible in antiquated English rather than the native Jamaican patois. But the number of people - especially young people - actually going to traditional churches is falling. The answer, some believe, would be to translate the King James bible into the local Jamaican language, offering a uniquely Jamaican version that appeals to ordinary people. However many traditional Christians feel it dilutes and disrespects the word of God. Others believe Jamaican patois is inappropriate for a formal setting like church. To mark Jamaican Independence Day and during the week where Jamaicans celebrate emancipation from slavery, British theologian Professor Robert Beckford travels to Jamaica in an attempt to legitimise the use of the Patois Bible. Presenter: Robert Beckford Producer: Rajeev Gupta (Image: The Jamaican Nu Testament Credit: Rajeev Gupta)
8/6/201726 minutes, 41 seconds
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Diary of a Pakistani Atheist

In March 2017, a High Court Judge in Pakistan made the dramatic declaration that “blasphemers are terrorists.” The declaration is just one part of a growing national campaign to make disbelief socially, publicly and morally not just unacceptable, but one that allows Pakistani people the right to attack those who doubt the importance of Islam. Websites offer a satirical take on Islam and challenge the notion that Pakistan is an Islamic Republic, but the government replied with adverts in national newspapers and text messages to all Pakistanis, urging them to report those who express their online disbelief in God Mobeen Azhar listens to the intimate, anonymous diary entries of those who call themselves atheists, but daren’t say so publicly. He also ventures inside the secret meetings and parties safe havens for atheists to come together to hear how it is to live the life of a non-believer, in a country where religion is playing a bigger role in all areas of life. Presenter and Producer: Mobeen Azhar To find out read Mobeen’s piece on the BBC website go to (Photo: The diary of a Pakistani Atheist, Credit: Mobeen Azhar)
7/31/201726 minutes, 45 seconds
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Sacred Songs of the Sikhs

The YouTube generation are re-inventing Kirtan, an ancient form of Sikh worship. Kirtan, the devotional singing of the Sikh holy book, the Guru Granth Sahib, has traditionally been accompanied by tabla or harmonium. Today, a new generation of Sikhs are uploading their own style of Kirtan to the global diaspora. Nina Robinson meets Kirtan artists Manika Kaur from Dubai and Violinder from San Francisco. With millions of views on their respective YouTube channels, these musicians are pushing boundaries, fusing Kirtan with electronic soundscapes. Manika Kaur believes by providing English translations to her videos, she is reaching many more young Sikhs with the words of the Guru as written in the ancient texts. In India, Nina visits the Golden Temple in Amritsar, one of Sikhism’s holiest gurdwaras. She meets one of the temple’s official Kirtaniyas, Bhai Nirmal Singh. Bhai Nirmal argues the words of the Guru should not be experimented. He believes fusing Kirtan with contemporary music production techniques is at odds with the true message of Sikhism.
7/31/201726 minutes, 55 seconds
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Spirit of the Midnight Sun

In the long summer, as they enjoy the 22 hours of daylight in the Arctic town of Vadso, Norway, Sami singers and young reindeer herders share their ancient beliefs and culture. The Sami tradition is that the land, sea, animals and plants are sacred. The gods and spirits within them have been worshiped for thousands of years but today’s young Sami are addressing the effects of climate change, pollution and population growth on their spiritual landscape. The Sami’s wordless spiritual songs – Yoik – which have travelled back and forth along the Arctic Circle as they migrated, are at the core of this programme. The wolf, the reindeer and the parallel universe of spirits beneath the ground are their subjects. The Sami people have been persecuted by Christians for centuries, forbidden from singing Yoik, but now the young Sami are looking to keep their ancient spiritual traditions alive. Presenter and Producer: Peter Curran (Picture: Sami reindeer herder tent Credit: Peter Curran)
7/21/201726 minutes, 55 seconds
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My Journey into Judaism

Stepping into the Micvah, the ritual pool, is the final stage of a convert's journey to Judaism. After a full body immersion they are officially Jewish. It is a one way street. Reminding a convert of their past lives or their transition is against Hasidic law. Natasha Serlin, born a Jew, meets the Curtis family, three members all on their own Journey to Judaism. From keeping kosher, memorising the Jewish calendar to learning Hebrew, they must prove themselves devout and observant. Natasha meets Reform Rabbi Dr Andrea Zanardo, mentor to all the prospective converts, who tells her that placing such high demands upon converts is as much about belonging and identifying as Jewish as it is about belief. Natasha questions why her own religion demands such strict observance from converts compared to those born into the faith. She asks whether Judaism needs to reform its relationship with those wishing to convert. She also explores how this area of Judaism balances a need to maintain numbers, with a desire to only accept those people who are willing to prove they are totally committed to the faith. Presenter: Natasha Serlin Producer: Claire Press (Photo: The Menorah, Credit: BBC)
7/9/201726 minutes, 29 seconds
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Giving Death Back to the People

Giving Death Back to the People is how Cara Mair describes her work as a funeral director. Her company, Arka Original Funerals, is part of a movement to de-industrialise, and re-personalise funerals in the UK. Cara began in the business as a freelance embalmer. But she doesn’t do that anymore. “It started to send me do-lally,” she says. When she was working here, there and everywhere as a freelance, she was often appalled by what she experienced - the conveyor belt of death, the disrespect shown to bodies, funeral directors puffed up with their own self-importance, and especially, their power over their clients. When Cara made the decision to start her own business, she was determined to do things differently. This edition of Heart and Soul explores Cara’s world, and her mission to change how her clients in the UK experience one of life’s most significant rituals. At the centre of her philosophy are the loved-ones left behind. Cara encourages them to be involved in the funeral process as much as they would like, or are able. This might mean they work with Cara to bathe, anoint and dress a body. Or that a family will ask to keep the loved one at home before the funeral – very rare in the UK. Heart and Soul hears from those who have first-hand experience of Cara’s philosophy. Losing someone provokes deep upset and uncertainty in us – what difference has Cara’s approach made to the process of saying goodbye? (Image: Cara Mair, founder of Arka Original Funerals, Credit: Toby Smedley)
6/23/201727 minutes, 23 seconds
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Good Without God?

They were a famous father-son team, perhaps the best known evangelical pastors in America. Tony and Bart Campolo spent decades preaching a gospel focused on serving the poor and the marginalised and Bart built a thriving inner city ministry, doing work for Christ. And then one day that all changed. He came off his bike at full speed and as he regained his health he realised that his faith had disappeared and he was no longer a Christian, but he still wanted to serve. Tony tells Jane Little about the actual physical pain he felt when Bart told him he had lost his faith. He set out to create a 'religion for unbelievers' and to prove that you could be good without God. Jane brings father and son together for a rich discussion on why Bart left and why Tony stayed – and still prays for his own Prodigal Son to return. Producer/Presenter Jane Little (Photo: Tony and Bart Campolo, Credit:
6/4/201726 minutes, 53 seconds
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Duterte's Drug War

The Philippines is a devoutly religious country, with more than 86% of the population Roman Catholic – and it has huge drug problem. President Rodrigo Duterte, himself a Catholic, has been waging a controversial war on his country’s drugs problem since he took office in 2016. Rebecca Henschke explores the fall out President Duterte’s controversial war on drugs is having on both the Church and Catholics in the pews. She visits drug rehab and prevention centres which are part of the Sanlakbay program that the Catholic Church has set up in response to the influx of thousands of drug surrenderees giving themselves up. Duterte feels that after years of sexual abuse, much of which was covered up the Catholic Church, it has lost its right to comment on moral issues and many of the people who support him agree
4/7/201726 minutes, 54 seconds
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The Return of the Heathens

The fastest growing religion in Iceland is Norse paganism. Floating in a hot spring, snow falling from the night sky, John Laurenson meets Teresa Drofn. A 25 year-old Heathen, Teresa describes her return to the religion of her Viking forebears as a renewal of a unique spiritual relationship with nature. A millennium after it was banned in exchange for Christianity, John explores why Icelanders are returning to the faith. At a ‘blot’, or sacred ceremony John hears a priestess read aloud from the Eddas, an ancient Icelandic text serving as scripture for the new heathens of Europe. In the old days at a ‘blot’, there’d be animal, even human sacrifices. Today they share in traditional Viking food, horse and whale, sheep’s head, puffin pâté and rotten shark. Visiting the site of a newly planned Heathen temple John meets high priest Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson. Hilmar has presided over hundreds of weddings and seen his own congregation increase six-fold within a single decade. This new Heathen house of worship, the first in a thousand years, will be aligned with the sun’s path and burrowed deep into a hill near the city’s airport. (Photo: A priestess raises a bull’s horn filled with beer at a heathen ‘blot’- a religious ceremony, Iceland. Credit: Silke Schurack / BBC)
3/27/201727 minutes
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Inside the Mosque Ruled by Women

In Copenhagen, on an upmarket shopping street, above a burger joint, two female imams are leading Friday prayers. The Mariam mosque is the first female led mosque in Scandinavia and one of only a handful worldwide. Anna Holligan travels to Denmark to meet its founder and imaamah, Sherin Khanhan. In building a feminist mosque Sherin hopes to revolutionize the traditional role of an imam and challenge some of the traditional patriarchal structures in Islam. Sherin argues that promoting female imams does not go against the teachings of Islam, but virtuously follows in the footsteps of the Prophet Muhammad who asked women to lead prayers in his own house mosque. Sherin’s interpretation of Islam has attracted criticism from leading scholars. Anna meets Professor Ebrahim Afash from the University of Copenhagen who accuses Sherin of diluting Islam. Professor Afash argues although the tiny mosque has received global attention by western media its impact upon Danish Muslims is insignificant. (Photo: Betina Garcia / Getty Images)
3/19/201727 minutes
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Standing Trial for Blasphemy

The national motto of Indonesia is ‘Bhinneka Tunggal Ika’ - Unity In Diversity. It is the world’s largest Muslim majority country, but across its thousands of islands live more than 300 ethnic groups. Pancasila, the nation's founding philosophy, recited by school children every morning, proclaims unity in democracy, nationality and the belief in one god. However Indonesia's founding principles are being tested by a high profile blasphemy case. Jakarta’s first non-Muslim governor, Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama, is the highest ranking official ever to be charged with insulting a religion. Whilst on trial, he is also running for re-election as governor. Before the blasphemy charges he was well ahead in the polls, but now it is possible he will lose in the February elections and may be jailed. With days remaining before Jakarta's elections Indonesian correspondent, Rebecca Henschke, investigates the use of Indonesia’s blasphemy laws alongside its reputation for religious tolerance. Galvanized by pressure from hardline groups, Rebecca witnesses crowds of tens of thousands gathered in Jakarta demanding Ahok to be jailed. Rebecca also meets Ahok's devoted supporters, committed to the campaign trail for his re-election. Ahok’s rise as a Chinese Christian to one of the country’s most prominent positions was seen as an example of Indonesia's commitment to religious tolerance. Now, many fear, a guilty verdict could cause irreversible damage. Presented and produced by Rebecca Henschke Photo Credit : Oscar Siagian / Stringer
2/13/201727 minutes
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Searching for the Spirit of Benin

Ed Davey travels to Benin to attend the annual Voodoo Festival in Ouidah, encountering this ancient African religion in all its faith and fervour. As travellers’ tales go, Jafar Habib’s account of the annual Voodoo Festival in Benin in 2011 is quite extraordinary. Jafar – a biochemist by trade – told correspondent Ed Davey that he had witnessed a voodoo priest decapitate a woman before raising her severed head in front of a baying crowd and reattaching it to her body. Then she came back to life. Right across West Africa, Benin is recognised as the cradle of voodoo: a religion with more than 50 million followers in the region and arguably more ancient than the Old Testament. Now, five years on from the gory spectacle, Jafar returns to the country with Ed to find out more about voodoo magic in the region. They meet sorcerers, witch doctors and a voodoo king, plus an elderly magic man reputed to have the power to summon rainfall at will. Against a backdrop of fervent belief, they crisscross the country witnessing animal sacrifice and feats of magic. They face warnings about crossing “bad” voodoo priests at a risk of being “spiritually destroyed”, but also discover Voodoo to be a religion of love, bringing great contentment to many of its followers. There are descriptions of scenes within this programme that some listeners may find upsetting (Photo: Voodoo devotees on a beach in Ouidah, Benin. Credit : Stefan Heunis/Getty Images)
2/12/201727 minutes
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Bahá'i - The World's Faith

The Bahá'i faith is one of the youngest of the world's major religions. A faith without borders, most of the Bahá'is live outside of the birth place of the religion, Iran, where they are seen as heretics. After the Islamic revolution of 1979, overnight the rights of minorities were stifled. Many Bahá'is were incarcerated, tortured and evicted from their home country. Today, despite years of persecution, the Bahá'is have not only survived but thrived in the diaspora, with communities in 190 countries around the world. For Heart and Soul from the BBC World Service, Lipika travels to America, home to the second largest Bahá'i population in the world. In New York Lipika meets several Bahá'i asylum seekers as they begin their new lives in the US. They are graduates from the Bahá'is' clandestine university, an underground network of teacher and students, the community's solution of self-education after being banned from colleges in Iran. Lipika also travels to Chicago where she visits the oldest Bahá'i temple in the world. Produced and presented by Lipika Pelham Photo Credit : Cameron Spencer / Getty Images News
1/15/201726 minutes, 59 seconds
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Off the Derech

Leaving the Orthodox Jewish community does not just mean forgoing your faith – it also means leaving a community, a life and in many cases your family. It can be so traumatic for many people that there are groups, set up to help people to distance themselves from the faith they feel encompasses every aspect of their lives. Daniel Gordon meets Hasidic Jews at different stages of the slow process of leaving their tight-knit religious community and joining mainstream society. Daniel will meet Maya, who grew up in the tight knit Jewish suburb of Stamford Hill in north London who tells him about her life as part of the community. He also meets 25-year-old Izzy who, until a couple of years ago, could not speak English such was the introverted nature of life. Daniel is there as he opens the results of an important maths examination that is taken by 16-year-olds in the UK. Leaving the ‘derech’, or path, is not an easy decision. In doing so, ties are cut permanently with a faith and a way of life that is governed by strict laws. In understanding what it is to leave we understand more what it was to be part of it in the first place.
1/8/201726 minutes, 59 seconds
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Doping, Diving and God

Dr Robert Beckford explores how cheating in sport conflicts with Christian principles. He asks how can an Olympic champion stand on the podium with a gold medal and then thank God in an interview if they have taken performance enhancing drugs? Can a footballer celebrate the penalty he has ‘won’ and then point to the sky in honour of God? In this edition of Heart and Soul, featuring Olympic medallist Ben Johnson, Robert explores what the Christianity has to say about fair play and whether by cheating you are dishonouring your faith. Doping, Diving and God was presented by Robert Beckford and produced in Salford by Rajeev Gupta. Photo credit: Getty Images
1/3/201727 minutes
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The Radical Disciple

Every week Father Michael Pfleger takes to social media to share the number of people killed over the past few days in his city, Chicago. The numbers are almost always in double figures and many of the dead are young African-American men shot on the streets that surround his church, St Sabina’s, in the almost entirely black suburb of Auburn-Gresham. Rajini Vaidyanathan meets Father Pfleger after Sunday Mass, to explore with him why he has devoted his life’s work to trying to rid Auburn-Gresham of gun crime. Whilst the vast majority of this congregation is African American, Father Pfleger is white. Meeting with his parishioners Rajini discovers how personal his crusade has become. General Ware, a young man recently out of prison describes how Father Mike took him in after he found him wandering the streets late at night. Mothers Annette Nance Holt and Pam Bosley describe how Father Mike help them to find their faith again after the tragic loss of their teenage sons, both shot and killed. Father Mike shares how he has personally been affected by guns, his adopted son Jarvis shot just yards from his church door. While many praise the work of Father Pfleger, there are others who argue some of it is cosmetic and that real change must come from within the black community itself. Maze Jackson discusses Father Mike’s role within the community and whether change can be sustained. The Radical Disciple was presented by Rajini Vaidyanathan and produced by David McGuire and Claire Press Photo credit: Andrew Burton
12/25/201626 minutes, 58 seconds
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When the Soul Goes Out

He is he says, on a mission from God, Robert Berman’s lifelong campaign for organ donation to be permissible under Jewish/Talmudic law – Halacha – is at the centre of an ongoing debate in Israel. Berman, a Harvard University graduate, is striving to change attitudes to the donating of organs and possibly redefine the strict and ancient definition of death. Berman has been referred to as “the murderer” as he continues to promote donor cards to this traditional community. Berman’s campaign has left him at loggerheads with Orthodox Rabbis, who view him with outright suspicion and as an outsider who wants to reform Talmudic decrees. Lipika Pelham meets Berman in Jerusalem discussing his belief that the Torah promotes all selfless acts, including specifically consensual live organ donor ship. She takes to the street of Jerusalem amongst the religious Jews to explore with the faithful their attitudes to donating and receiving organs and whether there is a chance that the rules over when a person is dead can be altered to make donation allowable under Talmudic law. Produced and presented by Lipika Pelham To find out more please click on
12/11/201626 minutes, 58 seconds
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Nepal's Living Goddess

In the centre of Patan City in Nepal resides a living goddess, a child as young as four, chosen to host a deity of invincible feminine power. On her young shoulders rests the fate of the nation. Goddesses in many religious traditions around the world exist only in the spiritual realm, symbolised by statues and icons. But in Nepal they live and breathe and take the form of young girls – the kumari. For centuries Hindus and Buddhists across the Kathmandu Valley have worshiped these young Buddhist girls believed to be possessed by the Hindu goddess Taleju. Selected so young, it is no easy task being a kumari – for reasons of purity they are taken out of school, only allowed to communicate with a select few, and are not allowed to walk on the ground outside of their homes. They are expected to sit still for long hours whilst giving blessings to thousands of visitors. But the kumari’s reign as a living deity is short. Upon her first period she is retired and replaced. Her powers are believed instantly lost and she must then negotiate how to become a normal teenager. As part of the 100 Women Season, Sahar Zand joins the thousands of Nepalese Hindus and Buddhists on leave from work and school as they celebrate the national festival of Dashain. Sahar explores the symbolic status of blood, the importance of sacrificing animals during Dashain festival and why when a kumari first menstruates the goddess is believed to vacate her body. Sahar meets solicitor Subin Mulmi who argues the strict rules of purity and segregation surrounding the kumari are detrimental to the child’s freedom and education. However, a former kumari Chanira Bajracharya, who despite describing the trauma of her first day transitioning from goddess to mortal, advocates this ancient tradition must be continued for the spiritual and cultural identity of Nepal.
12/4/201627 minutes
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Finding the Light

Huge numbers of Gypsies and travellers across Europe now say they've joined a new movement called Light and Life. Those who join have given up on some parts of their lives that have become associated with being a Gypsy, such as drinking alcohol and fortune-telling, with many even abandoned their traditional Catholic faith. The Gypsy led, Pentecostal movement, has grown rapidly in the past 3 decades - it claims that up to 40% of British Gypsies worship within it, whether that’s actually true, there is no doubt, there has a surge in people joining this vibrant church founded in France. Alex Strangwayes-Booth travels to France to the biggest come together of evangelical Gypsys in Europe where she finds out about the history of the Light and Life church and how it has grown, converting gypsys and travellers from Catholicism and in in many cases transforming their lives. Producer and Presenter: Alex Strangwayes-Booth
11/27/201626 minutes, 49 seconds
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Trump and the Evangelical Vote

Donald Trump predicted that if he won the votes of America's evangelical Christians he would win the election, and he was right. A quarter of all voters count themselves as evangelical and 81% of them voted for Trump, despite the deep misgivings and public disagreements among Christian leaders over whether their conscience would allow them to endorse him. Jane Little speaks to four leading evangelical leaders about how they define evangelical Christianity, their hopes and misgivings for the Trump presidency, what role Christian teachings will now play in shaping the country and whether we are in a new era for the religious right in the United States. Presented by Jane Little, produced by Claire Press and Richard McIlroy. Donald Trump joins evangelical Christians in Las Vegas. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
11/13/201626 minutes, 59 seconds
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Out of the Silence

25 years ago this month Terry Waite returned to the UK after nearly five years of captivity in Beirut. During the violent and destabilising civil war in Lebanon he had been sent by the Church of England to negotiate for the release of several hostages – but he was kidnapped and imprisoned himself by Hezbollah militants. His capture made news around the world and for a long time there was no information on whether he was alive. During his years of solitary confinement, Terry’s courage and faith were so strong that although he was denied any writing materials, in his head he managed to write a book and conceive ideas for poems. This November, Terry Waite will release his second publication; a book of poems entitled, 'Out of the Silence'. Ahead of the collection's publication, Samira Ahmed meets Terry at his home in the heart of the English countryside. She explores his deeply held faith throughout his turbulent journey. Terry describes how the central Christian teaching of forgiveness drove him to return to Lebanon to meet with both Hezbollah officials and Syrian and Iraqi Christians.
11/6/201627 minutes
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Power of the Word

Reading can be solitary, peaceful, a moment to be alone with your own thoughts, but it can also provide collective wisdom and shared experience. This week as part of the #LovetoRead season across the BBC, six religious leaders from around the world have chosen a single book that has a unique place in their spiritual lives, a non-religious text, but one that has enriched and informed their faith. We’ll hear from Ilyasah Shabazz, Sunni activist and daughter of Malcom X, London based Syrian Revd. Nadim Nassar, the Rabbi Baroness Julia Neuberger, Nigerian Pastor and interfaith activist Esther Ibanga, Ahmadi leader Imam Atta-Ul Naseer and Sikh theologian Valarie Kaur. Power of the Word was produced in Salford by Claire Press.
10/30/201627 minutes
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America's Muslim Town

Right next to the city of Detroit, Michigan is Hamtramck, the first Muslim majority city in the United States. Just over 50% of the residents are immigrants from Bangladesh, Yemen and Bosnia. There are ten mosques in just over 2 square miles, as well as Islamic private schools. But only a few decades ago, the city was dominated by Polish immigrants with their Catholic churches and schools. Long before Donald Trump made Muslim immigration a focus of his election campaign, Hamtramck made international headlines as the two groups occasionally clashed over issues of faith. In this episode of Heart & Soul Jennifer Chevalier explores the streets of Hamtramck, visiting its mosques and churches, meeting local residents and asking: can faith now help bring this city together? (Photo: The Islamic Center of Hamtramck. Credit: Scott Olson)
10/26/201627 minutes
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Wrestling with God

David Baker is a practising and proud Jew. He is also gay and in the eyes of many of his fellow Jews the two cannot go together. He has had to wrestle with these two sides to his identity leading to many hours of praying and soul searching, exploring whether he could still remain within his faith. Just after the Orlando shootings in June he was invited to the Iftar, the fast breaking meal in Islam, alongside LGBT Muslims and it was there that he realised that Jews and Muslims have more in common than he had first thought. David has been to meet fellow Jews and Muslims who have had to wrestle with their faith, explore the teachings and scriptures and argue with God to come to a place in their lives where their sexuality does not preclude them from being faithful. (Photo: A man wears a rainbow coloured crocheted skull cap. Credit: Thomas Coex)
10/16/201626 minutes, 40 seconds
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Amazigh Women of Morocco

The Amazigh women of Morocco have faced threats to their strong traditions and distinct religious identity for thousands of years. Celeste Hicks travelled high into the Atlas Mountains to find out how the Amazigh are dealing with a new threat – a stricter traditional version of Islam that could undermine their unique way of practising their faith. She hears how the Amazigh are trying to hold on to many of their traditions such as carpet weaving and facial tattoos which the conservative forces that are becoming more influential would find ‘haram’ or forbidden. The Amazigh women are a strong independent force in their historic tribe which date back to the days of Jesus' time on earth and holding on to that identity is a continuing struggle. (Photo: Amazigh women with facial tattoos carry their children on their backs) *The programme have been re-edited since it was first broadcast to ensure that certain translations are more accurate*
10/9/201626 minutes, 57 seconds
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Communism and the meteoric rise of Christianity in China

Every year millions of rural Chinese workers swarm into the new vast mega cities that are growing seemingly unconstrained all over this vast country As they settle and populate cities like Beijing and Shanghai, they are bring their Christian faith with them, changing the social and religious landscape of the country and challenging the moral authority of the Communist Party In the second part of his journey exploring Christianity in China, Danny Vincent meets the people worshipping in the shadows, out of sight of the government who have decreed that practicing their faith is illegal China will soon overtake the USA as the world’s most populace nation, Danny asks whether the state is just paranoid that Chinese Christians will shift their loyalty from the ideals of the Communist state to the word of God.
9/25/201626 minutes, 58 seconds
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Being Christian in China's Jerusalem

China is an atheist state, officially, but Christianity is booming. It is estimated that there are more Christians in the country than members of the Communist Party. Danny Vincent travels to the south-east coast to the city of Wenzhou – known as China’s Jerusalem. In Wenzhou, he discovers the scale of the recent demolitions by the government of crucifixes, the most venerated symbol of the Christian faith, officially because they are too tall or illegal. It is estimated that 1,700 crosses have been knocked down since 2014. Danny Vincent travels to Wenzhou to meet Pastor Zhang, an illegal pastor in one of the thousands of underground churches that serve the millions of Chinese Christians. However, he also meets a pastor from a government registered church who defends the crosses being taken down and how he says the real reasons that crosses are demolished is because they are illegally built and not because the Chinese government is so concerned about the meteoric rise in the faith. (Photo: A giant red cross propped up against a window)
9/18/201626 minutes, 59 seconds
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Faith on the Ukrainian Fault Line

The schism in the Ukrainian Orthodox Church is dividing communities, friends, even families, as they are forced to choose between Kiev or Moscow as their spiritual guide. After Russia's annexation of Crimea and conflict continuing in the east of the country, Ukraine's fraught relationship with Russia continues to cause controversy. In a country where the majority of the population consider themselves Orthodox Christians, Olga Smirnova investigates how Ukrainian's are negotiating the rift in Ukraine's religious landscape. Miles away from the conflict in east, Olga discovers a dispute in the village of Pticha, where the village's only church has become a symbol of the major spilt in the Orthodox church being experienced across Ukraine. Followers of the Church of Moscow have locked themselves inside the church forcing those affiliated with the Kiev Patriarchate to worship outside in the church grounds. The villagers are at war; husbands and wives are divided, as are parents and children. In Kherson, a town in southern Ukraine, Olga meets Priest Smitriev who on behalf of his congregation switched their alliance from following the Moscow Patriarchate to Kiev. Whilst Fr. Smitriev denounces his former church as a "participant in the murders of Ukrainian citizens" many of his parishioners refute their priest's decision. Faith on the Ukrainian Fault Line was presented and produced by Olga Smirnova
8/22/201627 minutes
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Benedict Spinoza - A Philosopher for Our Time

We live in fearful times. All over the world renewed wars of religion are being fought. Politicians exploit our fears of one another in order to win power. 350 years ago, the philosopher Benedict Spinoza put his very, big brain to work on the problem of religion in politics. His theories led to the Enlightenment and its ideas of democracy and the separation of Church and State in the role of government. To do this he had to argue that God was not the God of the Bible. Spinoza’s reward: excommunication. But no threat could stop him imagining a new kind of liberty. Michael Goldfarb tells the story of Spinoza with the help of philosophers and musicians in a programme that will make listeners think and reflect on the big questions of life, the universe and our place in it.
8/7/201626 minutes, 57 seconds
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Religion and Refugees in Hispaniola

Will Grant reports from both sides of the border in Hispaniola to look at the role of the church in the world's forgotten migrant crisis. Neighbours Haiti and the Dominican Republic have a long and turbulent history. Today a new conflict has arisen with the announcement by the Dominican government demanding all people of Haitian descent prove their legal status. Tens of thousands of Haitians have fled to the border to escape threats of violence and deportation. Along the mountain border near Parc Cadeau, Will meets the Jesuit organisations operating on both sides of the border, leading the efforts to provide shelter, food and spiritual support. Despite national and international pressure, and even a visit from the Pope, the influential Dominican Cardinal Nicolás de Jesús López Rodríguez continues to back the court ruling and antagonise attempts for intercultural dialogue. In the Dominican capital, Santo Domingo, Will meets the Jesuit priests who are protesting against their government and their own Church, asking them to help their Catholic neighbours. Photo: Parc Cadeau, Haiti . Credit: Will Grant
7/31/201627 minutes