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Heart and Soul


Whether examining religious faith or any other belief-system, the programme talks to believers and non-believers, and tries to get beyond superficial notions of spirituality and religion.

Whether examining religious faith or any other belief-system, the programme talks to believers and non-believers, and tries to get beyond superficial notions of spirituality and religion.


London, United Kingdom




Whether examining religious faith or any other belief-system, the programme talks to believers and non-believers, and tries to get beyond superficial notions of spirituality and religion.




Meeting the bombers who killed my mum

Sarah, together with her father and brother, meets the bombers who killed her mother as she and her family attempt to understand how the men who carried it out could be followers of the same faith – and claim to carry out the act in the name of Islam. On her fifth birthday Sarah’s mother died from injuries sustained in a terrorist attack. She was the victim of a car bomb that exploded outside the Australian embassy in the Indonesian capital Jakarta in 2004. It was one of a series of bombings...


The bomber turned peacemaker

“I am an expert bomb maker. I can make bombs in just five minutes; it’s easier than making a kite.” For Heart and Soul, Rebecca Henschke meets a bomber turned peacemaker as part of the Crossing Divides series on the BBC World Service. Ali Fauzi was a chief bomb-maker for Jemaah Islamiyah, a terror group with links to Al-Qaeda, responsible for Indonesia’s worst terrorist attack – the Bali bombing in 2002. His brothers carried out the bombing. Two of the brothers were executed, while another...


Dying to worship: The Christians of India

In just two years India has leapt up the table into the top ten of the most dangerous countries to be a Christian. At the same time, there’s a rise in an extreme version of Hinduism which is linked to the recently re-elected Prime Minister Narendra Modi. There are 65 million Christians in India, and they make up just over 2% of this vast country, but instead of being able to live and worship under the radar, in the last five years there’s been a huge increase in serious incidents against...


The Quran-rescuing monk of Timbuktu

Father Columba Stewart, a Benedictine monk from St Joseph's Abbey, Minnesota, travels to Timbuktu with a team of experts trying to persuade the Imams of the City's three great Mosques to allow them to digitise their highly endangered manuscript collections. These priceless cultural documents are filled with irreplaceable ancient wisdom. They are largely Islamic, but relate to all facets of life in the city over the last several hundred years. Many are straightforward copies of the Quran and...


Adventures of a Jewish scribe

In the first of two special programmes we meet Marc Michaels who has a rare skill. He’s keeping Jewish tradition alive. He is a Sofer, a scribe. It’s a dexterous skill that has been passed down for thousands of years. Scrolls are always hand written, otherwise they are not Kosher. Scrolls hold the sacred words of the Torah, God’s instructions to Moses and they form the basic tenets of the Jewish faith as well as playing a vital, symbolic role in the synagogue. But throughout their turbulent...


Temples of discord: Church building in Putin’s Russia

The Cathedral of Christ the Saviour is a rebuilt structure, a beacon for the resurgent Russian Orthodox Church and a stronghold of Patriarch Kirill who recently boasted that three new churches are built somewhere in Russia every day. Last year, there were 25 new churches in Moscow alone. Patriarch Kirill argues the country needs new churches to replace the ones destroyed under Communism. In the Soviet era, Lenin compared religion to venereal disease. Churches and monasteries were pulled down...


Escaping China’s religious prison camps

They tell stories of torture and punishment all because of their faith. Uighurs and other ethnic Muslims locked up and subjected to hours of brainwashing designed to rid them of them their faith. Human Rights Watch estimate there a million Muslims held in camps across China accusing the state of forced political indoctrination, and religious oppression. There are thousands of Muslims though who have managed to escape the camps to Kazakhstan. Rustam Qobil meets them to learn about their...


The Queen of Sheba

Three-thousand years ago, according to legend, a beautiful and wealthy queen embarked on a long journey to visit a celebrated king. He was King Solomon, and she was the Queen of Sheba. The Queen of Sheba is the great eastern muse, shifting shape, race, appearance, according to the beholder. She may be historical, or she may be mythical, but she is still world famous. In the Bible, she asks hard questions of King Solomon and leaves only after he gives her all that she desires. In the Koran,...


Ministry of sport

Christians in the UK are facing a huge crisis of faith, the numbers of people who say they are churchgoers is falling and the church is worried. Shari Vahl meets the Anglicans harnessing the power of sport to try and reconnect people with a faith many had chosen to forget. Churches in Norwich, a city in the east of England are challenging people’s ideas of what ‘a church’ is, setting up the Sports Factory to use football to bring people, particularly young men, to God. Shari meets 24 year...


Joy to the world

The sounds of Christmas will come from Manchester as three choirs that represent the rich diversity of the city share the songs which say Christmas to them. Members of the choirs tell Keisha Thompson about their lives in the city in northern England and what it means to them to come together to sing Christmas songs Presenter: Keisha Thompson Producer: Neil Morrow


Praise bee

"And your Lord inspired the Bee, build your dwellings in hills, on trees, and in (human's) habitations." (Qur'an 16:68). The bee has its own Surah or Chapter in the Qu’ran, it is revered in the faith for its diligent hard work and production of life-giving honey. The prophet Muhammed spoke about bees and honey. 'The believer is like a bee; her food and deeds are pure and wherever she goes she neither causes destruction nor corruption'. For many Muslims bees are not just intelligent, they are...


Walking the Kartarpur Corridor for Guru Nanak

The Kartarpur Corridor crosses one of the most dangerous and contentious borders in the world, and is generally shut to travellers, but, hundreds of thousands of Sikhs have crossed it to mark the 550th birthday of Guru Nanak, the founder of their religion. The chance to visit the magnificent monument to him, is all down to a highly unusual level of diplomacy between India and Pakistan, all in the name of Sikhism, a religion which has always straddled the divisions between Hinduism and Islam....


Buddhism in Cambodia

Cambodia has been a Buddhist country since the 13th Century, apart from a period under the Khmer Rouge. Ninety-five per cent of the population identify as Buddhist. Journalist and blogger, Kounila Keo, brings together young people in Phnom Penh, to hear what they think of the way Buddhism is developing in South East Asia and what kind of Buddhism they want in their country. We have a panel of young Buddhists, together with a live audience, at Factory in Phnom Penh, to discuss issues such as...


Halima: Faith and fashion

Halima Aden is one of the world’s first hijab wearing supermodels. A black, Somali-American, born in Kenya, Halima was the first contestant of a Miss Minnesota beauty pageant to wear a hijab. Now 22, she appears on magazine covers such as Elle and Vogue and walks the runway for famous designers. “I am not afraid of being the first”, she says with a smile. “I have an opportunity, through my modelling, to change the way that Muslim women are viewed, to give them a platform to have their voices...


Custodians of the synagogue

The magnificent Maghen David synagogue in Kolkata, India, was once a place of worship for a thriving community of Baghdadi Jews in the city. Now, not more than 30 Jews remain, most of them elderly. There was no resident rabbi from the mid-'60s onwards and, for years, no regular services have been held in the synagogue. But the Maghen David synagogue still occupies a special place in the hearts and souls of those who have known and used it. Jael Silliman and her mother Flower have returned to...


Who will call me beloved?

Tania Hershman is single, lives alone and likes it that way. She is the writer-in-residence in one of Europe’s largest graveyards, the Southern Cemetery, a multi-faith burial site in Manchester in the north of England. As she wanders through the gravestones she has started to wonder – who will call her 'beloved' when she dies? Manchester has the highest percentage of single people in the UK. For Heart and Soul Tania asks how will we commemorate single people with imagination and tenderness?...


Joining the mosque I planned to destroy

Richard McKinney has made an extraordinary life journey – from a US veteran who planned to bomb a mosque, to a d Muslim who prays devoutly at the very Mosque he planned for 2 years to blow up. A veteran of the US Marines, Richard returned traumatised from combat in Afghanistan. That turned into a deep hatred of Islam. At his home in Muncie, Indiana, Richard was producing a device to blow up the town’s Mosque which he hoped will kill 200 people. But he decided to give the community he so...


Brexit faith borders

Christian communities along the Irish border are free to worship on either side of it. But some worry that the United Kingdom’s plans to leave the European Union could lead to that coming to an end The 300-mile-long border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland is one of the most contentious stumbling blocks in Britain’s attempts to Brexit. Since the violent sectarian Troubles ended twenty years ago, the border doesn’t actually exist as a physical barrier, and thousands people...


100 Women: Assmaah Helal

Growing up as a hijab-wearing football fan in Sydney, Australia wasn’t easy for Assmaah Helal. From an early age she has worn the hijab and played football. She tells us how she was already self-conscious about this outward symbol of her faith, so to play in a football match wearing it was a big deal. Assmaah now uses her love of football to help refugees, new migrants and socially disadvantaged children in Sydney, and she speaks to them for Heart and Soul, as part of the BBC's 100 Women...


100 Women: Chely Wright

To come out as gay while part of the Christian church and country music is a brave thing to do. As a teenager in deeply Christian Kansas, Chely Wright thought praying would ‘fix her’ and she would be able to lead ‘a normal life’. In the second of three programmes for Heart and Soul as part of the BBC’s 100 Women season, Chely shares her life, explaining the massive conflict between her sexuality and her faith. Her faith is still strong and in her New York City home she talks about how it has...