Saturday, July 23, 2016 10:00pm
Mike Wooldridge meets Esther Ibanga and Khadija Hawaja, a Christian pastor and a Muslim community leader. Both are from the city of Jos in Northern Nigeria, a part of the country that has been riven by sectarian strife for many years. When Esther and Khadija first met, neither was prepared to listen to the other - the mutual prejudice of their respective communities was running far too deep. Yet eventually they did talk - and overcame their own misgivings to stand together for peace and against politicians seeking to sow sectarian division for their own gain. They are now co-operating on the Women Without Walls Initiative, an NGO that promotes dialogue between Muslim and Christian women in Northern Nigeria and has received no fewer than 13 international awards for its outstanding work.
Their choice has not been an easy one: there are vested interests that do not want to see them making peace, and they are also in the firing line of Boko Haram. Yet, they say, their faith carries them through. “God is the one who protects me”, says Esther. For Khadija, her work with Esther has been a great eye-opener. “I began to understand that I was not alone in my pain, and so I was able to understand that Christians are victims too.”
(Photo: Esther Ibanga speaks during the 7th Annual Women in the World Summit 2016, New York. Credit: Jemal Countess/Getty Images)
Saturday, July 16, 2016 11:05pm
Iftikhar Khan was a highly successful lawyer in Quetta in Pakistan, with a lifestyle to match. He acted as legal advisor to several banks as well as the United Nations. He was also a member of the Ahmadi community: a minority group which defines itself as Muslim, but is not accepted as such by many in mainstream Islam. In Pakistan, Ahmadis are prohibited by law from claiming that they are Muslims. Many have suffered threats, physical violence and worse.
For Iftikhar, all went relatively well until in 2010, when he was abducted by armed men on his way to work. They held him blindfolded and in chains for 20 days, and left him in no doubt about why they had taken him: because of his Ahmadi faith.
Eventually released for a ransom, but under threat of further violence, Iftikhar and his family made a tough choice: they left behind everything they had worked to build in Pakistan, and fled to Britain.
Initially, life as refugees meant having just one room to live in and not being allowed to work. Although he admits things have not been easy, Iftikhar’s overriding feeling is gratitude: to the country that gave him shelter, and to the God who, he feels, never abandoned him during his ordeal or since.
In the third of his series featuring people who have faced some of the hardest life choices imaginable, Mike Wooldridge meets a man who rose high in his chosen career – and lost it all because of his faith.
Saturday, July 9, 2016 10:00pm
Trevell Coleman, better known as the rapper G Dep, was a rising star on the New York hip-hop scene and had been signed to P Diddy’s Bad Boy record label. He also had a wife, Crystal, and twin boys.
Yet Trevell, who was brought up a Catholic and always retained his faith, had a terrible secret - as an 18-year-old, he had mugged and shot a man. He never knew what happened to his victim, yet 17 years later, in 2010, he could no longer bear the guilt and went to the police – a step almost unimaginable for someone from the hip-hop world.
A police search of their cold case files revealed the case of John Henkel – shot and killed in 1993 at exactly the same street corner in Harlem where Trevell says he committed his crime. He is now serving a jail sentence of 15 years to life for Henkel’s murder. Yet he has no regrets; “I wanted to get right with God,” he says.
Trevell’s choice was perhaps hardest to bear for his wife Crystal, who now has to bring up their teenage boys on her own.The story is told by Trevell himself, Crystal and others who played a part – including the foreman of the jury that found him guilty.
(Photo: Trevell Coleman aka G-Dep. Credit: Denise Truscello/WireImage/Getty Images)
Saturday, July 2, 2016 10:00pm
Mike Wooldridge travels to Denver in the US state of Colorado to meet Chad Arnold. It is not an exaggeration to say that Chad’s dilemma was a life-or-death one. In his 20s, Chad – one of four children from a close-knit, devout Christian family - developed an incurable liver disease which eventually, in 2010, left him close to death. A live liver transplant became his only chance of survival and his younger brother Ryan, a father-of-three, stepped in and offered to donate part of his own liver.
Despite serious misgivings and following much family prayer, Chad accepted – with devastating consequences. While his own recovery was almost instant, Ryan began to deteriorate. Five days after the operation, he died.
For Chad, a period of huge guilt, doubt and soul-searching began, reaching its lowest point when his brother’s liver began to fail in his body.
Yet this is not the end of the story. Physically, Chad eventually did recover. Emotionally and spiritually, things were much harder. It took him two years to face Ryan’s widow, Shannon, again. Yet it was Shannon who, in an extraordinary and unexpected way, eventually played a decisive role in enabling him to re-embrace life.