Thursday, February 9, 2017 6:00pm
The national motto of Indonesia is ‘Bhinneka Tunggal Ika’ - Unity In Diversity. It is the world’s largest Muslim majority country, but across its thousands of islands live more than 300 ethnic groups. Pancasila, the nation's founding philosophy, recited by school children every morning, proclaims unity in democracy, nationality and the belief in one god.
However Indonesia's founding principles are being tested by a high profile blasphemy case. Jakarta’s first non-Muslim governor, Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama, is the highest ranking official ever to be charged with insulting a religion. Whilst on trial, he is also running for re-election as governor. Before the blasphemy charges he was well ahead in the polls, but now it is possible he will lose in the February elections and may be jailed.
With days remaining before Jakarta's elections Indonesian correspondent, Rebecca Henschke, investigates the use of Indonesia’s blasphemy laws alongside its reputation for religious tolerance. Galvanized by pressure from hardline groups, Rebecca witnesses crowds of tens of thousands gathered in Jakarta demanding Ahok to be jailed. Rebecca also meets Ahok's devoted supporters, committed to the campaign trail for his re-election.
Ahok’s rise as a Chinese Christian to one of the country’s most prominent positions was seen as an example of Indonesia's commitment to religious tolerance. Now, many fear, a guilty verdict could cause irreversible damage.
Presented and produced by Rebecca Henschke
Photo Credit : Oscar Siagian / Stringer
Thursday, February 16, 2017 6:00pm
Ed Davey travels to Benin to attend the annual Voodoo Festival in Ouidah, encountering this ancient African religion in all its faith and fervour.
As travellers’ tales go, Jafar Habib’s account of the annual Voodoo Festival in Benin in 2011 is quite extraordinary. Jafar – a biochemist by trade – told correspondent Ed Davey that he had witnessed a voodoo priest decapitate a woman before raising her severed head in front of a baying crowd and reattaching it to her body. Then she came back to life.
Right across West Africa, Benin is recognised as the cradle of voodoo: a religion with more than 50 million followers in the region and arguably more ancient than the Old Testament. Now, five years on from the gory spectacle, Jafar returns to the country with Ed to find out more about voodoo magic in the region. They meet sorcerers, witch doctors and a voodoo king, plus an elderly magic man reputed to have the power to summon rainfall at will. Against a backdrop of fervent belief, they crisscross the country witnessing animal sacrifice and feats of magic. They face warnings about crossing “bad” voodoo priests at a risk of being “spiritually destroyed”, but also discover Voodoo to be a religion of love, bringing great contentment to many of its followers.
There are descriptions of scenes within this programme that some listeners may find upsetting
(Photo: Voodoo devotees on a beach in Ouidah, Benin. Credit : Stefan Heunis/Getty Images)
Thursday, February 2, 2017 6:00pm
London’s Highgate Cemetery is the resting place of many famous people including Karl Marx, George Eliot and Christina Rossetti. It is a park, a forest, and a maze, high up on a hill, an eccentric sprawling world of its own even though it is in an elegant London neighbourhood.
Bestselling American writer and artist Audrey Niffenegger first visited in the mid-1990s and found it wonderfully theatrical and moving. Years later, when she was inspired to set a novel in a cemetery, she decided that Her Fearful Symmetry had to be set in Highgate.
She is joined by broadcasters John Waite and Judith Kampfner who both have family graves at Highgate. John has been closely associated with Highgate for nearly 30 years while Judith has come to know it more recently. Both are proud to have loved ones resting in a place where there is a clear mission for tolerance and acceptance of people of all faiths and no faith.
Audrey explains how the cemetery became a character in her novel and how it allowed her to take her plot to wild extremes. Her book explores grief and memory and letting go, and she appreciates the way the Victorians accepted death and even celebrated it. She also likes the way that Highgate is different from a modern cemetery. Though a lapsed Catholic who does not believe in an afterlife, Audrey traps a dead character in a supernatural world between life and death and admits that she is still fascinated by Christian iconography and the Gothic and Egyptian symbols that commemorate the dead in Highgate.
(Photo: Audrey Niffenegger in Highgate Cemetery. Credit: Jon Calver)
Thursday, January 26, 2017 6:00pm
Shamain Faruque is one of the most well known bridal make-up artists in Pakistan. Shamain’s salon is filled with nervous brides waiting their turn. Some sleep on sofas with their full bridal hair in place as families concern themselves with every conceivable detail. Weddings are big business in Pakistan and for Shamain her faith plays a big role in her artistic direction.
As she works prayers are pumped through her Karachi based salon, as she channels beauty through God. Lucy Wearing, pop star Ellie Goulding’s make-up artist, profiles Shamain, her work and the role religion plays in her busy life.
Lucy met Shamain whilst teaching a make-up course in Dubai. They have remained friends ever since which is remarkable as they are the polar opposites - Lucy is agnostic whilst Shamain prays three times a day. Watching Shamain at work is fascinating; she works like an artist with a canvas. Her brides remain silent while she goes through the ‘look’. How does religion inspire her artistic vision?
(Photo: Shamain Faruque makes-up a client)
Thursday, January 12, 2017 6:00pm
The Bahá'i faith is one of the youngest of the world's major religions.
A faith without borders, most of the Bahá'is live outside of the birth place of the religion, Iran, where they are seen as heretics. After the Islamic revolution of 1979, overnight the rights of minorities were stifled. Many Bahá'is were incarcerated, tortured and evicted from their home country. Today, despite years of persecution, the Bahá'is have not only survived but thrived in the diaspora, with communities in 190 countries around the world.
For Heart and Soul from the BBC World Service, Lipika travels to America, home to the second largest Bahá'i population in the world. In New York Lipika meets several Bahá'i asylum seekers as they begin their new lives in the US. They are graduates from the Bahá'is' clandestine university, an underground network of teacher and students, the community's solution of self-education after being banned from colleges in Iran. Lipika also travels to Chicago where she visits the oldest Bahá'i temple in the world.
Produced and presented by Lipika Pelham
Photo Credit : Cameron Spencer / Getty Images News