Personal approaches to spirituality from around the world.
Costing the Earth
By BBC Radio 4
Sport at Six - Manchester City
By BBC Radio Manchester
By BBC World Service
By BBC Radio Leicester
I Was There
By BBC Radio 5 live
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
Nov. 12, 2017
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.
Nov. 3, 2017
Around the world, thousands of children have been fathered by supposedly celibate Catholic priests. Most are never acknowledged. Those whose paternity does become known are often shamed into silence. Some have been forced to sign confidentiality agreements, other discovered in adulthood that their mothers became pregnant as a result of sexual assaults.
Hugh Costello talks to people in two countries where such cases are widespread – the Philippines and Uganda – and meets the children of priests as they struggle to gain recognition and respect. A new campaigning group is using DNA testing and documentation searches to hold priests – and their bishops – to account. But as the Vatican under Pope Francis continues to reject calls for priests to be allowed to marry, how willing is the church to put the needs of the children above those of the institution?
Oct. 30, 2017
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
Oct. 22, 2017
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
Oct. 15, 2017
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)
Oct. 1, 2017
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
Sept. 27, 2017
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.
(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)
Sept. 17, 2017
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.
Aug. 18, 2017
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)