Thursday, August 27, 2015 7:00pm
Almost half of Britain's Muslim population is under 25 and born in the country. Yet many of the country's imams are foreign-born and elderly, leading to claims that they can be out of touch with their communities.
After the bombings in London on 7th July 2005, the UK government decided an emphasis on 'homegrown' imams - born and trained in the UK - was seen as key in engaging young Muslims and curbing extremism.
A decade on, Samira Ahmed explores the changing role of the imam in Britain. Under an increasing media spotlight, their job includes not just the traditional roles of teaching and leading prayers, but counselling and pastoral care, helping third and fourth generations understand their identity as British Muslims. It can be a 24/7 role and the pay can be terrible. At the same time they are finding themselves pulled between the demands of the government, media, their communities and more traditional, conservative mosque committees and trustees.
Samira visits the seminaries and colleges where many of Britain's imams are trained, and meets graduates who have left behind mosques, instead providing spiritual guidance online or in their own homes. She asks whether the next generation of Britain's imams are equipped to provide the spiritual guidance and community engagement necessary to help young Muslims come to terms with their identity in increasingly challenging times.
Thursday, August 20, 2015 7:00pm
Rabbi Sharon Brous leads the IKAR Jewish community in Los Angeles, USA, and was voted America’s most influential Rabbi in 2013. She tells Jane Little about her decision to become a Rabbi and discusses the ideas she holds about Judaism and how social justice has challenged the orthodoxy within her faith.
Rabbi Brous also explains how she reaches out to young Jews who feel they have lost touch with or become disenfranchised from the religion and how she is now trying to draw them back by re-emphasising what she calls “the basics” of their faith. She explains why she did not want to head a traditional synagogue and why she set up IKAR to challenge the traditional ways of worship and how she views her faith and the role of a Rabbi.
This is the second on a three-part series for Heart and Soul where Jane Little meets a new generation of female religious leaders in America who are challenging the establishment within their respective Christian, Jewish and Islamic faiths.
(Photo: Rabbi Sharon Brous. Credit: IKAR)
Friday, August 14, 2015 7:00pm
In 1717, three Brazilian fishermen prayed to The Virgin Mary to help them overcome a run of empty nets. Afterwards, they threw their nets over one more time and pulled up not only more fish than they could deal with, but also a statue of Mary herself. That statue is considered the most important relic in the country and is visited by millions of Brazilian Catholics every year in its home of Aparecida, just north of Sao Paolo.
In the past few years more and more pilgrims have travelled to the city to pray at the statue by way of one of the world’s newest pilgrimage routes, the Caminho da Fe (Path of Faith). Bob Walker, a veteran of many of the world’s most famous pilgrimage walks, takes to the Caminho da Fe to find out more why it is so important to Brazilian Catholics even though the walk itself was only started in 2003, and how it compares to pilgrimages such as the Camino de Santiago in Spain. Along his 308-mile way he encounters wild dogs, torrential rain and tough unforgiving terrain.
Bob Walker speaks to the pilgrims he meets on the route and discovers that Catholicism, for so long the religion of virtually all Brazilians, is now under threat from a new, colourful Pentecostalism.
The Long of Walk of Faith was walked, presented and produced by Bob Walker.
(Photo: Bob Walker's shadow on the route)
Friday, August 7, 2015 7:00pm
Amongst the hi-tech, high pressure companies that make up the Silicon Valley in California there are buildings and beliefs that might seem at odds with the reason Silicon Valley exists in the first place. This is the home of the companies striving every day to shape a new future, pushing the boundaries of innovation and creating a new world where technology plays a bigger role that could one day mean that interaction between people, face to face, becomes all but obsolete.
Peter Bowes explores how traditional faiths co-exist with the all-consuming worlds of the tech companies - many of which have their own philosophies, cultures and belief systems. He finds a religious culture amongst the glass fronted buildings and meets the worshippers who have filled a spiritual void in their otherwise-successful Silicon Valley lives. Peter asks why some of the high-achieving and high-earning are searching for a sense of community in churches, such as the C3 in Palo Alto, which advertises itself with the sign, “Religious? Neither are we!”.
He also joins the worshippers of the Sunnyvale Hindu Temple, to talk how their faith contradicts or complements the work that brought them to Silicon Valley in the first place. In a world where relationships are virtual and disconnected, he asks them how they marry their work in this hub of technological innovation with a faith that offers them connection to others.
Photo: Epic Church, a new Christian Church in San Francisco, California, USA/Credit: Peter Bowes
Friday, July 31, 2015 7:00pm
Japan is commemorating 70 years since the end of World War Two. Japan's indigenous ritual practice, Shinto, or more precisely State Shinto, is closely intertwined with Japan's military adventures in Asia and sites like Yasukuni Shrine remain a sore spot for regional neighbours like China and Korea who suffered at the hands of Japanese army.
Japan's conservative Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is expected to release a much-awaited statement that will define the current official view of World War Two and its legacy. The statement will likely reassess and possibly weaken the language of the 1995 Muryama statement of "deep remorse" and "heartfelt apology" that has until now set the benchmark for Japan's official acceptance of responsibility for atrocities committed in WW2.
Janak Rogers explores the meaning of Shinto and how it became a driving force for the Great East Asia War. He also investigates why the Yasukuni Shrine is still so controversial and the role of state Shinto.
(Photo: Shinto prayer tablets known as 'ema' hang at Yasakuni Shrine in Tokyo, Japan. Credit: Janak Rogers)