BBC Radio 4
A look at the ethical and religious issues of the week
Eurovision; Ukraine; Litany Fashion
Swiss singer Nemo has won the Eurovision Song Contest in Sweden, with their song The Code. The contest in Malmo Sweden has been marred by protests about the Israel Gaza conflict threatened to derail the event. Emily Buchanan gets an update rom BBC reporter Sophie Yardley and Dr Paul Jordan, an expert on Eurovision whose thesis, The Eurovision Song Contest: nation branding and nation building, examined the political changes in the competition.For the fifth time, Vladimir Putin took the oath of office and was sworn in as Russia's president for a new six-year term in the Kremlin Palace before being blessed by Patriarch Kirill in the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. Where he was likened to Alexander Nevsky - known for fighting off raids of Teuton knights. Patriarch Kirill claimed “God himself entrusted the service of Russia to you". How do these events shape the identity of the Russian Orthodox Church? Sunday programme hears from Katharine Kelaidis, Director of Research and Content at the National Hellenic Museum.Litany is a made to measure clothing small business in New York. Driven by their faith, Co-creators Veronica and Olivia started their business to provide women with garments that are worthy of wearing. Emily Buchanan hears from co-founder Veronica, about how her Christian faith inspires her fashion brand.Presenter: Emily Buchanan Producers: Bara'atu Ibrahim & Linda Walker Production Coordinator: David Baguley Editor: Jonathan Hallewell
May 12
42 min
The Muslim Vote, Lama Rod Owens, Faith Schools
The way many Muslims have voted in the local elections this week has raised some difficult questions for Labour. We hear from Shaista Aziz one of ten Labour councillors in Oxford who resigned in the autumn over the party's position on the Gaza conflict, and Stephen Fisher, Professor of Political Sociology at Oxford University, on what it could mean for a general election. Lama Rod Owens is one of a new generation of Buddhist teachers centred on living in a just way, with a focus on social change, identity and spiritual wellness - with many of his practises taking place online. He’s currently on tour in the UK and joins us to discuss how his Methodist upbringing in America’s South has helped form his unique practise of Tibetan Buddhism.The government announced this week that it was consulting on whether to lift current rules that mean faith schools can only offer up to 50 percent of their places to pupils on the basis of religious belief. The Catholic Education Service has been lobbying for over a decade and claims it’s previously held back from opening schools because of the restrictions. Sir Edward Leigh MP, Conservative MP and former President of the Catholic Union, and Dr Ruth Wareham, Lecturer in Philosophy of Education at the University of Birmingham, discuss whether we’re likely to soon see more Catholic free schools being established, whether lifting the rules will increase divisions in society, and if high performing faith schools are the result of them being more socially selective.Presenter: Edward Stourton Producers: Alexa Good & Rosie Dawson Production Coordinator: David Baguley Editor: Tim Pemberton
May 7
41 min
Nigerian Pastor; Muslim Drag Queen; Humanism
As the malaria vaccine is rolled out across sub Saharan Africa, medical experts are concerned about the impact of anti vaccine sermons from influential religious figures. An example is Pastor Chris Oyakhilome, a multi-millionaire televangelist in Nigeria whose promotion of anti-vax conspiracy theories risks undercutting the country's efforts to deal with malaria. William Crawley speaks to Julius Ogunro, a media and political consultant in Abuja who's been writing about the pastor's anti-vax views.Lady Bushra has been gracing stages across the UK and America with a drag and comedy act representing South Asian communities, wearing traditional Desi makeup and rocking a Saree. Behind the make-up is the Bradford-born artist and performer Amir Dean, who spoke to William Crawley just before one of his shows in Manchester.As Humanists UK release a book of interviews called ‘What I Believe’, we ask what they do believe, apart from the assertion that there is no God. We hear from Andrew Copson, Chief Executive of Humanists UK and Nichola Raihani, Professor of Evolution and Behaviour at University College London.Presenter: William Crawley Producers: Bara'atu Ibrahim & Peter Everett Production Coordinator: David Baguley Editor: Jonathan Hallewell
Apr 30
44 min
Gaza Christians; Trump bible; Easter Island
Parishioner's in Gaza’s only Roman Catholic church are marking Easter Sunday with some extra pomp and pageantry but basically as they do everyday, with prayers for food and a ceasefire. More than 500 people have been sheltering in the Holy Family Church since the outbreak of war. They’re part of the dwindling Christian community in Gaza who’ve stuck together for protection and ignored warnings to leave the northern part of the strip. Producer Catherine Murray has kept in touch with one of their members, George Antone, and tells us how they have communicated over the past six months.Former United States president Donald Trump is selling Bibles during the Easter holiday, encouraging his supporters to "Make America Pray Again". In a three-minute video posted on his Truth Social network on Tuesday, Mr Trump told supporters that "Christians are under siege" as he endorsed a large-print King James Version of the Bible complete with what he called America's "founding father documents." We’ll hear from Theologian Brad Onishi, a professor of religion at The University of San Francisco and co-host of the 'Straight White American Jesus' podcast to get his view on how the move has been received.Polynesia’s Rapa Nui was given the nickname ‘Easter Island,’ after its first-recorded European contact, on Easter Sunday, 1722. Home of the Moai and giant, stone platforms (‘ahus’), masterful feats of construction, still part of ancestral beliefs and practises today, the island is also one earth’s most remote places, with a history long shrouded in false narratives. We speak to philologist Silvia Ferrara about how new research into a wooden tablet, featuring an independent writing system, that pre-dates European influence by at least two centuries, can widen our understanding of historical religious beliefs and practises on the island.Presenter: William Crawley Producers: Bara'atu Ibrahim & Linda Walker Production Coordinator: David Baguley Editor: Tim Pemberton
Mar 31
39 min
Integrating refugees; St John Passion; the Value of Religious Education
Faith leaders including the Archbishop of Canterbury and Cardinal Vincent Nichols have welcomed a new report which calls for better support for asylum seekers. It comes from a commission set up to consider how refugees might be helped to integrate into society more easily. It makes a series of recommendations and suggests that the current system creates barriers to asylum seekers who want to quickly make good use of their existing skills and qualifications. The government says it's committed to ensuring refugees can take positive steps towards integration as they rebuild their lives in the UK.It's 300 years since J S Bach's setting of the Passion narrative from St John's gospel was first performed on Good Friday at the St Nicholas Church in Leipzig. This week many of the UK's cathedrals and churches will be marking the anniversary by performing it. The composer, conductor and singer, Bob Chilcott celebrates the work and reflects on what is one of the most revered of all musical settings of the Passion. Does religious education at school help young people when they get a job? Lord Karan Bilimoria, a former president of the CBI, thinks it can. He believes RE helps young people to navigate the complexity of modern belief and the diversity of worldviews in the UK today. The businessman, who is from the Zoroastrian tradition, has launched a campaign urging employers to support higher standards in religious education. We hear from Lord Bilimoria, and also from the National Secular Society who feel there are better ways to equip young people for the workforce.Presenter: Edward Stourton Producers: Jonathan Hallewell and Alexa Good Editor: Dan Tierney
Mar 24
36 min
Pope autobiography; Extremism definition; Sir James MacMillan
Pope Francis says he won't resign, in his new autobiography released this week. We hear from the host of the "Inside the Vatican" podcast Colleen Dulle, who's read it.Should young children fast during Ramadan? We visit a school making arrangements for its Muslim pupils and hear from an Imam and GP.What role does religion play in the mass kidnappings in Nigeria? More than 250 children were abducted from their school in Kaduna State last week and dozens of women were abducted in Borno state soon afterwards. It's thought that Islamist fighters from Boko Haram are behind many of the incidents.The Catholic composer Sir James MacMillan was honoured with a fellowship of the prestigious Ivors Academy this weekend. He tells us about his stirring music and his personal faith.The new extremism definition released this week by the government has generated plenty of headlines and concern. We consider how it could influence the government's counterterror efforts and why the new definition is needed.Presenter: William Crawley Producer: Catherine Murray Editor: Dan Tierney
Mar 17
36 min
Ramadan in Gaza, Leaving Faith Helpline, Alternative Mothering Sunday
The Muslim holy month of Ramadan is normally a time of fasting, family and prayer for Muslims around the world. How can the people of Gaza observe Ramadan in the middle of conflict, displacement and desperate food shortages? Ghada Ouda, a journalist in Rafah in the south of Gaza, tells us about her preparations.The first ever helpline in the UK dedicated to people leaving controlling groups or experiencing religious trauma has just been set up. Terri O'Sullivan, Apostate Services Development Officer, at Humanists UK explains who is using the service.As Christians mark the fourth Sunday in Lent, Mothering Sunday, we ask is it ok to avoid church? Lizzie Lowrie discusses the alternative liturgy she helped create for those who find the day difficult.Editor: Dan Tierney Presenter: Emily Buchanan Producers: Alexa Good and James Leesley Studio Managers: Simon Highfield and Kelly YoungProduction Coordinator: Pete Liggins
Mar 10
43 min
Gaza aid; Brit Awards; UK Islamophobia
More than 100 Palestinians died trying to get food from an aid convoy earlier in the week. We hear from Gaza's small Christian minority, most of whom have been sheltering in two churches, as well as from ICRC's Matt Morris on the challenges aid agencies face in getting aid across to a people on the brink of starvation.The 26-year-old artist claimed a record-breaking six prizes, including Best Artist and Best Album. She also became the first woman to win songwriter of the year. Raye is outspoken about her life as a committed Christian, and has even suggested that God saved her from taking her own life. She's talked about her faith to the BBC music correspondent, Mark Savage. The prime minister's dramatic appearance at the Downing Street lectern on Friday night, warning of extremists "trying to tear us apart", followed days of roiling political turmoil; the row over the now former Tory MP Lee Anderson claiming that the Mayor of London is "controlled" by Islamists, the claim by another Tory MP, Paul Scully, that parts of London and Birmingham are "no-go areas". All these things played into debates about extremism, race and religion. A report by Jasdeep Bahia looks into one of those so-called no-go areas, and Edward Stourton speaks live to Hope Not Hate's Nick Lowles who conducted a poll on Tory Islamophobia, as well as Tory MP Paul Scully.Editor: Tim Pemberton Presenter: Edward Stourton Producers: Bara'atu Ibrahim & Linda Walker Studio Managers: Sue Stonestreet & Mike Smith Production Coordinator: David Baguley
Mar 3
43 min
Vatican secrets; Interfaith row; AI and beyond the grave
Some of the Vatican’s secrets have been revealed in a new book, ”Secretum”, by Massimo Franco. It’s in the form of a series of conversations with Archbishop Sergio Pagano, who has worked in the Vatican archive for 45 years. From stories of Vatican intrigue to a letter written in 1530 by English nobles urging Pope Clement VII to grant Henry VIII an annulment so he could marry Anne Boleyn, Massimo Franco tells Edward about some of the gems in the Archive.The Inter Faith Network (IFN) is to close after the government withdrew funding because one of its trustees is associated with the Muslim Council of Britain. Since 1987 the IFN has worked to promote understanding and good relations between people of different faiths. Edward talks to IFN’s executive director, Dr Harriet Crabtree and to Zara Mohammed, Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain.Increasingly AI is being used to help people maintain a form of relationship after death, to help preserve a legacy or experiences worth remembering. We hear from the AI version of the actor Ed Asner who died in 2021, from Stephen Smith, CEO of StoryFile, who created it and from Dr Nathan Mladin from Theos whose latest report looks at the pros and cons of how AI is being used in the rapidly changing world of grief tech.Producers: Amanda Hancox and James Leesley
Feb 25
43 min
Israel Gaza conflict; Rochdale Labour; Rave in the nave
Israeli troops are set to advance into the Gazan city of Rafah, defying international pleas to reconsider. Some 1.4 million Palestinians are sheltering there. The UK House of Bishops is calling for an immediate ceasefire in the conflict. The Sunday programme spoke to Bishop of Worchester Dr John Inge.Sir Keir Starmer has defended his handling of the antisemitism row in his party as a Muslim candidate is withdrawn from the race in Rochdale. William Crawley speaks to Marc Levy - the chief executive of the Jewish Representative Council of Greater Manchester and Mohammed Shafiq, National Executive Committee member of PCS Union and Chief Executive and founding member of the Ramadhan Foundation which is one of the UK's leading Muslim youth organisations.Church buildings have opened their doors and held public events for centuries; Choral Evensong, Classical concerts and in more recent times, Lego building and Crazy Golf. But this year, many cathedrals across the country are taking it a step further and hosting 80s, 90s and 00s themed ‘Silent Discos’. Canterbury Cathedral recently hosted two sold-out nights with an attendance of 3,000 people at £25 per ticket. But not everyone agrees. Some critics have questioned whether this is an ‘appropriate’ use of sacred space, and a petition campaigning against the events has amassed over two thousand signatures. So what is an ‘appropriate’ use of a sacred space? William Crawley speaks to the Dean of St Albans, Jo Kelly-Moore.Presenter: William Crawley Producers: Bara'atu Ibrahim and Linda Walker Production Coordinator: David Baguley Editor: Tim Pemberton
Feb 18
43 min
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