A look at the ethical and religious issues of the week


London, United Kingdom




A look at the ethical and religious issues of the week




Power of religion at Cop28; Shane McGowan's Catholicism; Near-death experiences

Faith is front and centre at Cop28 this weekend. The Pope may have missed the climate summit because of health problems but for the first time at the gathering , a Faith Pavilion has been erected. Edward looks at the role religions can play in mobilising support for action on climate change. Hear about the near death experience involving bright lights and angelic figures that turned a manual labourer into an artist and composer Edward talks to priest Eugene O'Hagan about the faith of Shane McGowan who died this week at the age of 65. The Pogues's singer described himself as a 'religious fanatic' and a 'free-thinking Catholic'. We'll hear how important his religion was to life and his work. A World Health Organization team in Gaza has described scenes in the hospitals there as “like a horror movie”, even before the bombing started again this week. Dr Ghassan Abu Sittah, a British-Palestinian surgeon who operated on patients at the Anglican-run al-Ahli hospital in Gaza, has now returned to the UK and tells Edward Stourton about his experiences. Edward hears from Rachel Goldberg, whose son Hersh was badly wounded when he was taken hostage by Hamas


Same sex church blessings; Religion in Dr Who; Antonio Banderas on playing King Herod

As tension builds in the Middle East over the much anticipated truce between Israel and Gaza, we look at the latest in the developing situation. The armed wing of Hamas said on Saturday it was delaying the handover of a second group of hostages as part of a temporary ceasefire deal until Israel “adheres to the terms of the agreement”. We'll also hear from Rachel Goldberg, whose 23-year-old son Hersh Polin Goldberg was taken hostage from the Nova music festival on October 7. This week, Rachel was granted an audience with Pope Francis as one of 12 individuals whose family members are being held hostage by Hamas. For award-winning actor Antonio Banderas, playing the evil King Herod in the nativity musical “Journey to Bethlehem” gave him an opportunity to explore his faith and find the joy of playing the bad guy, we hear about his experience in the film. Jewish groups have criticised Pope Francis over his comments that they saw as accusing both Hamas and Israel of "terrorism". Francis made the comments on Wednesday, we'll look into the comments and the reaction to them. At 5:15pm on 23 November 1963, the first episode of Doctor Who was broadcast on BBC One. Exactly 60 years on, the show is celebrating its diamond anniversary with three new hour-long specials starting this weekend. We'll look behind the Tardis to explore the hidden spiritual meaning behind some of the stories with Dr Andrew Crome is a cultural historian at Manchester Metropolitan University. We return to the continuing row in the Church of England over church blessings for same-sex couples -- and the fears raised by some that the church could be heading for a split, with the Church of England Evangelical Council now seeking to set up its own alternative leadership system for priests opposed to those blessing services. The Christian season of Advent begins next Sunday, which means lots of people will be getting their Advent calendar ready to begin the annual countdown to Christmas. The Church of England is marketing its first ever printed Advent Calendar, complete with a fold-out, stand-up crib, we'll look at how it's set to compete in a very crowded market. Presenter: William Crawley Producers: Linda Walker and Amanda Hancox Editor: Helen Grady Studio Managers: Colin Sutton and Michael Smith


Same Sex Blessings in the Church of England

This week Church of England leaders voted narrowly to allow special services of blessing for gay couples. At a meeting in London, the church’s General Synod approved the move on a trial basis. It has been a hugely divisive issue and there are fears that it could split the church. Equality campaigners insist that gay Anglicans should be able to marry in church like everyone else. But some conservatives say that the church is straying from scripture, which teaches that marriage can only be between a man and a woman. The Labour Party leadership was hit by a major rebellion this week in the Commons when 56 MPs defied party policy and voted for a ceasefire in Gaza. Eight shadow ministers also resigned their positions in support of an immediate ceasefire. Muslim party members, councillors and MPs have been vociferous in pushing for an end to the violence in Gaza as the death toll has soared. Labour usually enjoys strong support from Muslims, but could this issue lose the party votes, or even seats at the General Election? Why have human beings always been so attracted to stories about the end of the world? Across cultures and history, stories and works of art have reflected ideas of the apocalypse. It's the subject of a new exhibition which includes poems by T. S. Eliot and W. B. Yeats. The exhibition's venue is a Victorian house in Bedford, which once belonged to a now defunct Christian apocalyptic movement, called the Panacea Society. We'll hear the history of this eccentric organisation and also examine the strangely enduring appeal of the apocalypse. Presenter: Edward Stourton Producers: Jonathan Hallewell and Bara'atu Ibrahim Editor: Helen Grady Studio Managers: Helen Williams and Sue Stonestreet


Interfaith relations and Israel-Hamas war; The Bard and the Bible; Hindu ante-natal rituals

William Crawley talks to interfaith experts about navigating Jewish-Muslim relations against the backdrop of the Israel-Hamas war. As we celebrate 400 years of the publication of Shakespeare's first folio, Professor Regina Schwartz, an expert in both explains how 'Love thy neighbour' is central to understanding the Bard and the Bible. Hear about the Diwali baskets being made in Birmingham to celebrate the big day. Angry meetings and an intractable issue: The General Synod of the Church of England gets ready to talk same sex blessings this week. Reporter Harry Farley has the details


Use of scripture in war rhetoric & Church of England same-sex blessings

William Crawley has the latest on events in Israel-Gaza. He’ll also be discussing use of scripture in war rhetoric with two experts after Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu referenced the Bible earlier this week. Also on the programme, a Sikh man who felt discriminated against when he was barred from doing jury service because of his religious sword. Are bells the soothing sound of Sunday morning or a nuisance for neighbours? New bells are going up at a parish in Devon and it’s caused a bit of a ding dong. Hear from the Canon of St James’s Church in Tiverton as well as critics. The Church of England General Synod meets later this month and one of the issues to be discussed includes same-sex relationships. In February, the Synod voted in favour of allowing blessings in church for LGBT couples, whilst maintaining that there was no change in the church's doctrine of marriage: church weddings would still only be for heterosexual couples. For supporters of same-sex marriage, it didn’t go far enough. The BBC's Linda Pressly met some of those who feel strongly on both sides of this debate. Presenter: William Crawley Producers: Bara'atu Ibrahim & Rosie Dawson Editor: Tim Pemberton



A look at the ethical and religious issues of the week


The Israel-Hamas conflict and its repercussions in the UK

This week's Sunday explores the latest on the conflict in the Middle East, and its repercussions in the UK for Jewish and Muslim communities. The archbishops of Canterbury and Jerusalem unite in a call for peace. As the Metropolitan Police reports a spike in anti-semitic hate incidents, a Jewish woman from London tells the programme how her Muslim friends escorted her to synagogue in an act of solidarity. And we examine the significance of the site of the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, which is layered in history and meaning for Muslims and Jews alike. Presenter: William Crawley Producers: Bara'atu Ibrahim and Louise Clark Editor: Dan Tierney.



A look at the ethical and religious issues of the week


Violence in the Middle East

We report the latest from Israel after a wave of surprise Palestinian attacks. Israel's Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has said the Palestinian militant group, Hamas, will pay "an unprecedented price" for their offensive across the border. Thousands of rockets were fired from Gaza, with gunmen entering Israel across land and sea. Israeli fighter jets have been striking Gaza in retaliation. It's a momentous week in Rome where the Catholic Synod is taking place for the first time with laymen and women. Seventy of them will have a vote as they consider topics including LGBTQ Catholics and the role of women in the church. It's inspiring hope in those who see an opportunity for change and anger in others. Could it lead to a schism in the church? We hear from two Catholic commentators, theologian Tina Beattie and journalist Edward Pentin. France has banned its athletes from wearing the Muslim hijab headdress at next year's Olympic games in Paris. The Sports Minister Amelie Oudea-Castera says the ban will ensure ‘absolute neutrality’ at the games, a stance rooted in a principle of French law known as laïcité, which legally prohibits state recognition of any religion. Some have protested that it's a restriction on freedom of expression. We hear the arguments on both sides. A new report highlights a culture of elitism within the Church of England and how working class clergy are left feeling marginalised, ignored and misunderstood. Bishop of Barking, the Rev Lynne Cullens, who's from a working class background herself, tells us how the report could help the church to address its problem with class. Presenter: William Crawley Producers: Jonathan Hallewell and Louise Clarke Editor: Tim Pemberton Studio Managers: Colin Sutton and Phil Booth


Politics and the Lords Spiritual; The Venerable Bede; Spirituality of Sycamore Gap

Prayers are being said at church services today for the family of 15 year old Elianne Andam, who was stabbed to death while on her way to school in Croydon. A 17 year old man has been charged with murder. William Crawley speaks to local Anglican bishop, Rosemarie Mallett who has been working to tackle knife crime and supporting Elianne's family. It's called the holy grail of medieval history; the search to find the actual handwriting of the Venerable Bede, a monk from the north east of England. He was a man obsessed with learning who became the only English Doctor of the Catholic Church. Professor Michelle Brown has writen a new book, "Bede and the Theory of Everything". She explains what we owe to this saint from the 700s. Hare Krishna rapper Jake Emlyn tells us why he gave up music for his faith and why he's now considering a return to the record industry. There was shock over the felling of the 300 year old tree at Sycamore Gap, a place where people scattered ashes, made marriage proposals and contemplated nature. William hears from the Bishop of Newcastle, Rt Rev Helen-Ann Hartley and asks if you have a spiritual or a strong connection to a particular tree. PRESENTER: WILLIAM CRAWLEY PRODUCERS: BARA'ATU IBRAHIM & LINDA WALKER EDITOR: HELEN GRADY STUDIO MANAGERS: CHRIS HARDMAN & NAT STOKES PRODUCTION CO-ORDINATOR: DAVID BAGULEY


Pope in Marseille; Khalistan; Definition of Islamophobia

This weekend Pope Francis made an historic visit to Marseille, France; the first papal visit to the port city since Clement VII in 1533. The purpose of the trip is to show solidarity with the migrants as the French government takes a stricter stance amid rising Mediterranean crossings. Edward Stourton speaks to French Christian Journalist, Sophie Lebrun. Relations between Canada and India have become strained after the Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau linked the Indian state with the killing of a Sikh separatist leader on Canadian soil. Hardeep Singh Nijjar - a Canadian citizen - is the third prominent Sikh figure to have died unexpectedly in recent months. India strongly denies the allegations and further suspended visa processing for Canadian nationals travelling to India. BBC Monitoring's Nurussanda Garg has the latest on the story and Professor Gurharpal Singh explains the origins of the pro-Khalistan movement. One in seven local authorities in England have adopted a definition of Islamophobia that was rejected by the Government in 2019. While it’s since been adopted by Labour, the Lib Dems and the Scottish Conservatives, free speech campaigners say it’s confusing and in danger of conflating race and religion. Linsay Taylor from Muslim Engagement and Development and Stephen Evans from the National Secular Society discuss whether the term adequately differentiates between the discrimination of Muslims and the right to be able to criticise a religion. Presenter: Edward Stourton Producers: Bara'atu Ibrahim & Jonathan Hallewell Editors: Tim Pemberton & Dan Tierney.


Libya floods, pilgrimage to the city of Uman, racial injustice in the church

The BBC has been told that bodies are still washing up from the sea in Derna, a week after massive flash floods in Libya. Now there are fears for survivors in the city with not enough medicine and clean water for those who have been made homeless. We hear live from Libya the latest on the situation on the ground and also look at the impact on the Muslim community both in Libya and here. Manchester has the largest Libyan population in the UK, we'll hear from Manchester based charity, Wafa Relief and Action for Humanity about their work in the disaster zone. US Presidential Candidate - Vivek Ramaswamy has been annoying rapper Eminem, defending Donald Trump and now answering questions about his Hindu faith on the campaign trail in Iowa. It was the second time he had been questioned about his faith, as the first-time candidate's popularity has continued to rise in the polls. And Pilgrims are travelling to Ukraine against official advice, to celebrate the Jewish New Year. We find out why they're taking the risk? Presenter - Edward Stourton Producers - Catherine Murray & Linda Walker Editor - Tim Pemberton


British Imams "whitewashing" the actions of the Taliban

Former diplomats and politicians from Afghanistan are among around 900 people who've signed an open letter calling on British authorities to investigate what they call a "propaganda" and "whitewashing" campaign by UK Muslim scholars on behalf of the Taliban. William Crawley speaks to one of the signatories of the letter. Pope Francis is planning to publish a sequel to Laudato Si', his encyclical, or papal teaching letter, on the climate crisis. One of his closest advisers, Cardinal Michael Czerny, explains why. And the extraordinary story of an Irish Catholic priest who, for many years, secretly worked for the IRA, earning himself a place on the UK's most wanted list. Presenter: William Crawley Producers: Dan Tierney and Peter Everett Editor: Helen Grady


Reconciling sex work with faith

Can you be a sex worker and still follow your faith? Sex work has always challenged religion. Although it’s broadly considered immoral within Christianity, Islam and Judaism, sacred texts carry some mixed messages. We hear from a British woman who grew up as a devout Muslim but now makes adult content for the online service Only Fans. She’s often pictured wearing a hijab. She’s received death threats but believes that expressing her sexuality and making her own choices about her body are empowering. She reflects on the difficulity of reconciling sex work with religious faith. Attendance at Church of England services has fallen sharply in recent decades. A new survey of over a thousand clergy suggests that many are anxious about the future of the church. Nearly a third of those who responded to the poll, by the Times newspaper, felt that the Church could face extinction if the decline continues. Some believe that part of the problem is that church teaching on issues like gay marriage and the role of women is out of touch with public opinion. We hear from several Anglican priests and invite the church to respond to their concerns. Why are nuns such an enduringly popular subject for films? This week, The Nun II, a horror movie, is released in UK cinemas. It's just the latest in a rich seam of nun-themed films, which includes Sister Act, Black Narcissus, Nuns on the Run, and The Sound of Music. A film critic and a Catholic nun discuss the portrayal of nuns in cinema and reflect on the enduring appeal of nuns to film makers. Presenter: Edward Stourton Producers: Jonathan Hallewell and Bara'atu Ibrahim Editor: Tim Pemberton Studio Managers: Simon Highfield and Sue Stonestreet Production Coordinator: David Baguley


The Catholic seal of confession

If priests were required by law to report child sex abuse, what would it mean for the Catholic seal of confession? Priests can never disclose anything they hear during the sacrament of confession. But a proposed new law could legally require people to report cases of child sex abuse. If a priest were to hear such evidence during confession, how should he respond? How could he, and the Church reconcile Church teaching with his need to obey the law, and protect the safety of children? We examine the arguments on both sides of the debate. What is it like if you and your partner have different faiths? Almost 300,000 households in the UK contain people of different faiths living under the same roof. It may sound like the stuff of sitcoms, but it can cause friction and division within families. How do you navigate the differences between your beliefs and practices? Is there a way of bringing two faiths together that can enrich your domestic life? We speak to a man who was brought up as an Orthodox Jew and is now married to a practising Christian. Few people say grace before meals these days. But Lincoln’s Inn, the largest of London’s Inns of Court, founded in 1422 and the haunt of senior barristers and judges, still raised a few eyebrows this month when it announced that – for the sake of ‘inclusiveness’ - there would no longer be Christian grace before meals. The writer Quentin Letts takes a dim view of the decision. Producers: Jonathan Hallewell and Linda Walker Presenter: Emily Buchanan Editor: Helen Grady Studio Managers: Colin Sutton and Sharon Hughes Production co-ordinator: David Baguley


Hawaii Fires; Jehovah's Witnesses; the Vicar of Moscow

Most of the town of Lahaina, which served as the first capital of the former Kingdom of Hawaii has been destroyed, along with many of the sacred sites of Hawaii's indigenous religion as wildfires ripped through the region. Mokihana Melendez, who teaches aspects of Hawaiian traditional culture, talks to William Crawley about the significance of the religious and cultural heritage that has been lost. St Andrew's looks like a typical Victorian English parish church but it's only 10 minutes from the Kremlin. Rev Malcolm Rogers talks about what like was like living in Russia during the ongoing Ukraine war. After 9 years and a series of legal challenges the Charity Commission has finally published its report into the child protection and safeguarding policies of the Jehovah's Witnesses' Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Britain. We hear why a former Elder is "shocked and disappointed". As we mark the second anniversary of the Taliban's takeover of Afghanistan, a group of British Imams and scholars give a different picture of what life in Afghanistan is like - but are they right? Heavy metal and pipe organs are not normally associated together but Mark Deeks, leader of the band 'Arth' and Leeds Diocesan organist David Pipe performed 'Organic Doom'. They told William Crawley how this unusual collaboration came about. Producers: Amanda Hancox and Peter Everett Editor: Tim Pemberton



Hundreds of thousands of young people have greeted the Pope for World Youth Day in Lisbon. Find out why it matters to UK Catholics who have travelled there. Hear from the ex-Catholic nun, who cast off her habit to work as a nurse, an author, and finally a stand-up comic. Kelli Dunham has a show at the Edinburgh Fringe that takes in her past lives as well as difficult topics like grief and death. Morocco play France on Tuesday having made it to the last 16 of the Women's World Cup in their debut appearance. Last Sunday, the Moroccan defender Nouhaila Benzina became the first player to wear a hijab at the World Cup. We'll consider some of the challenges facing Muslim women in football. Dr Robert Jones, founder of the Public Religion Research Institute in Washington DC explains why Trump's indictment shows no sign of affecting his popularity with white Christian evangelical voters. Last week the Taliban in Afghanistan issued photographs of a giant bonfire of musical instruments. Is their crack-down on music and singing just strictly-applied Islamic principle? Or is it – as some have called it – ‘cultural genocide’? Hear from a British Imam and Afghan musician Elaha Suroor. PRESENTER: William Crawley PRODUCERS: Catherine Murray and Louise Clarke EDITORS: Tim Pemberton and Helen Grady



A look at the ethical and religious issues of the week


Oppenheimer, Manipur, The Sixth Commandment

J. Robert Oppenheimer had a life-long fascination with Hinduism, and the Hindu sacred text, the Bagavad Gita, which he famously quoted in response to the first Atomic bomb detonations. As 'Oppenheimer' is released in cinemas this week, William Crawley explores the connections between Oppenheimer, the Gita and the Bomb, with Emeritus Professor of History Jim Nijiya and Hindu scholar Acharya Vidyabhaskar. The Indian state of Manipur, has been plunged into what some believe is a state of civil war between its two largest ethnic groups; the majority Meitei, who are mostly Hindu, and the minority Kuki tribe, who are mostly Christian. We speak to a researcher from Open Doors, the charity supporting persecuted Christians. And as the television series ‘The Sixth Commandment’ draws rave reviews, we debate the moral pros and cons of ‘true crime’ drama with journalist Amelia Tait and theologian Canon Angela Tilby. CORRECTION: This programme has been edited since broadcast to remove the incorrect assertion by Professor Satvinder Juss that Terry Milewski apologised for a statement he made in an article. Mr Milewski neither apologised, nor retracted any part of the article. Professor Juss has apologised to Mr Milewski for this incorrect assertion. Presenter: William Crawley Producers: Bara'atu Ibrahim & Louise Clarke Studio Managers: Nat Stokes & Sue Stonestreet Production Coordinator: David Baguley Editor: Dan Tierney


Soul Survivor; 'Our Problematic Father'; White Privilege

The Church of England's National Safeguarding Team has said it will not discipline Soul Survivor's Mike Pilavachi. Pilavachi, who founded Soul Survivor church and its Christian youth festivals resigned four months after more than 100 people alleged inappropriate behaviour that including wrestling with young teenagers. Edward Stourton speaks to David Gate, a former Soul Survivor church member, who shares his first hand experience. The Archbishop of York said last week that addressing God as 'Our Father' might be 'problematic'. We've gathered the opinions of some theologians - Christian, Muslim and Jewish - about the gender of God. A report published this week says many Catholic and Church of England schools are using American-style Critical Race Theory to teach pupils about racial justice, claiming the lessons are divisive and do more harm than good. Edward Stourton is joined by the author of the report, Alka Sehgal-Cuthbert to debate the issue with The Reverend Nigel Genders, Chief Education Officer for the Church of England. Presenter: Edward Stourton Producers: Bara'atu Ibrahim & Peter Everett Studio Managers: Colin Sutton & Helen Williams Production Coordinator: David Baguley Editor: Tim Pemberton