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Heart and Soul


Personal approaches to spirituality from around the world.


London, United Kingdom




Personal approaches to spirituality from around the world.




Purity to nudity

Gwen was brought up as a strict evangelical Christian. She was taught that women needed to control the way they dressed and acted to control the behaviour of men. When she was sexually abused, she believed it was her fault. But when she first stepped into a nudist community, she felt free. She was naked, with other naked people, and her nakedness was not making other people molest her. She learnt that her body was not something she had to hide. The BBC’s Josie Le Vay visits Gwen at her home...


My hijab or my sport

It took Salimata Sylla three hours to get to the away fixture she was due to play with her basketball team mates from the Parisian suburb of Aubervilliers. But it was only a few minutes before the match started that she learned she was going to sit the game out on the bench. Despite playing for more than 10 years in the French Championship, the federation that controls her sport decided to apply the rule that forbids female basketball players from wearing the hijab. Her coach describes her...


An instrument speaking to the infinite

The organ has always been a vehicle for truly cosmic ideas - for atheists and believers alike. Acclaimed Latvian organist Iveta Apkalna explores the idea that the instrument is simply a vehicle for Christian worship digging deeper into how the organ conveys ideas of the infinite and the microscopic, the existential and the personal, of celebration, grief and joy. Presenter: Iveta Apkalna Producer: Steven Rajam An Overcoat Media production for BBC World Service (Photo: Pipe organ by Nikolaus...


Two Rabbis, worlds apart in Israel

When we think of division in the Middle East, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict normally comes straight to mind. But there’s a new and dangerous tension in Israel – between its own Jewish people. The country now has its most right-wing government for decades, with controversial figures who’ve advocated violence and divisive policies. There’s also a plan to change the judicial system to give Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and a small number of government figures vast control. Its critics...


Coming out of the Ifá closet

Almost 10 years ago, Peter MacJob’s life changed forever. Born and raised a devout Christian like so many of his fellow Nigerians, he fell out of love with the Church and discovered the traditional Yoruba religion of his ancestors. Other Africans appear to be doing the same thing, both on the continent and throughout the diaspora. But as Peter has found, it is not always easy to convert: Ifá, or Isese, involves effigies, divination, and making offerings to a range of deities, up to and...


Stripped of my spirituality

Aged four, Mary was playing in her parents’ front yard, when she was grabbed by “the government people” and taken to a Catholic boarding school to be turned into a Christian. She’s just one of thousands of Native Americans who were forcibly removed from their homes and put into boarding schools from the 1800s right up to the 1970s. According to a US government report, the purpose of these schools was to strip indigenous people of their spiritual beliefs, culture and land. A government...


The cost of being an atheist in Nigeria

When Mubarak Bala posts criticism of Islam on social media, it sparks a landmark legal case and leaves him facing 24 years in jail. Raised in a Muslim family, Mubarak is the son of an Islamic scholar in the religiously conservative Kano state. But in 2014, Mubarak renounces Islam and later becomes president of Nigeria’s Humanist Association, gaining a reputation as an outspoken critic of religion. In 2020, a group of Muslim lawyers call for him to be tried for offences related to blasphemy...


The Right Thing: Framed by my brother

In July 2000 Floyd Bledsoe was convicted of the murder of his 14-year-old sister-in-law in the small Kansas town of Oskaloosa. His older brother Tom had originally confessed to the killing, but later changed his story, accusing Floyd of the crime. A committed Christian, Floyd spent the next 15 years fighting his conviction, and wrestling with the Bible’s teaching to forgive those who have done us wrong. Could he forgive Tom for what he had done? Or his parents, who had sided with one son...


The Right Thing: Opposing sexual violence as a weapon of war

**Contains graphic details of sexual violence against women and children** As a young boy, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Denis Mukwege witnessed his father, a Pentecostal pastor, praying for a sick child. It made him want to help people who suffer – not as a pastor, despite his own Christian faith, but as a doctor. Fast forward to 1999, and Denis Mukwege founded Panzi hospital in Bukavu, a city in the Democratic Republic of Congo, near the Rwandan border. There, over the last 20 years, he has...


The Viking priest

The Ásatrú faith is Iceland's fastest growing religion. Drawing on Norse mythology, it is a pagan faith open to all. But in recent years it has been hijacked by white supremacists in other countries. We follow High Priest, Hilmar Hilmarsson, as he attempts to tackle this critical challenge and protect his faith’s true origins. When white supremacists marched through Charlottesville in 2017, Hilmar looked on from Reykjavik. It was not just their racist message that worried him. It was the...


The battle for souls in Nepal

Nepal has one of fastest growing Christian communities in the world. Helping to drive the growth are South Korean missionaries like Pang Chang-in and his wife Lee Jeong-hee. The couple’s work spreading the word of Jesus is risky. Those found guilty of converting people face up to five years in jail in Nepal. The BBC’s Asia editor Rebecca Henschke and Korean journalist Kevin Kim follow the couple as they open new churches and teach the next generation of Nepali Christian leaders. This is a...


Pope Benedict XVI: A life and legacy

In this special programme to mark the death of Pope Benedict XVI, Colm Flynn explores the life story of the gentle German academic who became the spiritual leader of 1.3 billion Catholics all over the world. The 95-year old Pope Emeritus died at the Vatican on New Year’s Eve 2022. He will perhaps be best remembered as the first Pope to retire in 600 years. But his life and legacy is much more complicated and varied, with a papacy filled with both majestic spiritual moments and embarrassing...


Thich Nhat Hanh’s censored legacy

Thich Nhat Hanh is known as the father of mindfulness. The Vietnamese monk shared Buddhist teaching with the world, and launched a global spiritual movement. But a year on from his death, Thich Nhat Hanh remains a controversial figure in his home country of Vietnam. During his lifetime, he built Plum Village monasteries and meditation centres across the globe – but he couldn’t do it in his home country. His anti-war activism angered the authorities in south Vietnam, and he spent most of his...


Christmas with the cooking priest

Fr Leo Patalinghug is not your typical priest. In one hand he holds a cross, in the other a cooking spatula. With his own international TV show, YouTube channel and cookbooks, this apron-wearing minister is on a mission – to share his faith through food. Growing up on an island in the Philippines, where money was tight, Leo and his family sometimes struggled to put food on the table. It was after moving to the United States that they got a start in life and, from a young age, Leo was always...


The Iran protests

Iran has seen months of protests following the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini who was detained by the country's ‘morality police’ (Gasht-e Ershad) on 16 September, three days after her arrest in Tehran. As women-led protests intensify, with calls for freedom against strict dress codes and mandatory hijab, and demands for regime change, Heart and Soul brings together three Iranian women from different walks of life. The BBC’s Faranak Amidi leads the conversation which explores religion,...


Poland's Jews: Caught between, never home

For centuries, Poland was home to millions of Jews in the heart of Europe. Decades after the horrors of the Holocaust, questions of lost identity have arisen. What is it like to be a third-generation Jew in present-day Poland? We meet Małgorzata, who was born into a Jewish family in the late 1980s. She says being a Jew in Poland today means people think you are neither truly Jewish, nor Polish. She is just one of millions of third-generation Jewish people across Central Europe attempting to...


Arizona’s desert crosses

Alvaro Enciso is an artist. He arrived in the US from Colombia in the 1960s and now lives in Tucson, Arizona on the edge of the unforgiving Sonoran Desert. If you are a migrant, this is one of the deadliest places to journey across the border from Mexico into the United States. Many of those who begin that lengthy walk will not make it – thousands have died in the attempt. Alvaro Enciso feels a very human connection to those lives lost. So every Tuesday, he does something extraordinary....


Turtle Island and the Black Snake

Native American Anishinaabe people have been living around the Great Lakes since time immemorial, following spiritual beliefs centred around the water. But they say their way of life is being threatened by an oil pipeline sitting on the bed of the Straits of Mackinac, a volatile waterway connecting two of the Great Lakes, Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. The Line 5 pipeline has been there for 69 years, but only came to public attention after a major oil spill in Michigan led to its discovery....


One scoop or two

Artist Annie Nicholson's life and work have been shaped by loss after her family were killed in a helicopter crash in New York City in 2011. The grief was overwhelming, but slowly she found a way to live her creative practise. During the pandemic, as people around the world were coming to terms with their own losses, Annie bought an old ice cream van and set off - serving up mint choc chip and vanilla scoops- and inviting people to talk about big uncomfortable emotions. Now she is taking the...


Dying in Varanasi

Varanasi is one of the oldest continually inhabited cities in the world and considered the spiritual capital of India. While also holy to Buddhists, Jains and many other sects, it is the most sacred city in Hinduism. Said to have been founded by Lord Shiva, for centuries Hindus have made the pilgrimage from all over the world to the banks of the Ganges River. For many of these pilgrims, they know this will be their last mortal journey. In Hindu tradition it is said that to die in Varanasi,...