Personal approaches to spirituality from around the world.
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.
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
Educative challenging unrivalled humbling...