When an earthquake and tsunami struck Japan in 2011, 30ft (9.14m) waves obliterated coastal communities. The small town of Otsuchi lost everything including 2000 residents.
One resident, Itaru Sasaki, was already grieving his cousin before the tsunami hit. He had the idea of nestling an old phone booth on the windy hill at the bottom of his garden which overlooked the Pacific Ocean. This would be a place he could go to speak to his cousin - a place where his words could ‘be carried on the wind.’ The white, glass-paned booth holds an old disconnected rotary phone. He called it his Wind Phone.
In the aftermath of the terrible tsunami, as word of the phone spread, it became a pilgrimage site for those who had lost loved ones. In the sanctuary of the booth they would dial old phone numbers and talk to their loved ones.
Interpreter and journalist Miwako Ozawa visited Otsuchi in the weeks after the tsunami. In this programme she returns for the first time since 2011 to visit the phone and find out how it has helped people to cope with their grief.
We meet some of those who regularly visit the phone and we hear their stories and listen in to their phone calls. In many ways the wind phone typifies a very Japanese relationship with nature and death and with the invisible forces that connect us all. As the residents of Otsuchi face the slow progress of rebuilding their town and the frightening reality of future extreme weather, the wind phone is a reminder of those losses that won’t be forgotten.
Presenter: Miwako Ozawa
Producer: Sarah Cuddon
(Photo: The wind phone)
A female rabbi in training
Miriam Camerini is in training. It’s a three year course, and at the end of it, if she is successful, she will become one of the world's first female Orthodox Jewish rabbis. Ever since she was a child, Judaism has been part of her life, and now she has immersed herself further in her faith to eventually be able to lead prayers and call herself a rabbi. Rabbis in Orthodox Judaism have been men, and Miriam tells us about her journey so far.
In Milan, Miriam introduces Geoff Bird to some of the other people who are helping her and why influences from outside Judaism are as important to her preparation, and how she favours some of the more traditional laws of Judaism, even those that may seem on the outside to be misogynistic.
We join her as she immerses herself in the Torah at a Yeshiva in Jerusalem, learning what her fellow male students think about sharing their studies with a woman. Miriam is also a theatre actress, and we hear how it has played a big part in the way she understands her faith.
Presenter: Miriam Camerini
Producer: Geoff Bird
Kaka'i: Our fight to survive
Farhad al-Kake tells the story of his people, the Kaka'i of Iraqi Kurdistan, whose faith has put them under threat from Islamic fundamentalists. Persecution has made them secretive about their beliefs and practices, but for the first time they tell of the danger they face – how places of worship have been destroyed and believers kidnapped, attacked and murdered by Isis, who hold the Kaka'i’s egalitarian, peaceful religion to be a ‘false cult’. Despite the danger, we hear how the Kaka'i are holding on to their faith on the frontline.
(Photo: Kaka'i women on rugs. Credit: Farhad al-Kake)
Beauty and belief: The story of a Brooklyn salon
For Heart and Soul, American journalist Noor Wazwaz takes us into the private world of New York’s first hijab-friendly hair and beauty salon.
Based in Brooklyn, Le'Jemalik - which means For Your Beauty in Arabic - is owned and run by Yemeni-American Huda Quhshi. A hair and beauty expert with an entrepreneurial spirit, it’s been Huda’s life-long ambition to create a beautiful, bright, enclosed women-only space where clients can let their hair down, in every sense of the word.
Modesty is the order of the day for Muslim women here in the salon, and opinions vary on just how much makeup can be worn in public. But one thing is agreed: religious modesty and a desire to be beautiful can and do go together.
We meet bridesmaids getting dolled up for their big day, hard-working mums and fashion students in need of pampering. Listening on conversations, we discover how religion and culture shape Muslim women's views about beauty and fashion. Some beauty treatments are considered haram - or forbidden by Islamic law - but there are workarounds such as halal brows and halal nail polish.
Image: A beautician at work (Credit: Joy Ernanny)
Pick up your stretcher and walk!
Like many disabled people, Damon Rose is regularly approached by Christians who want to pray for him to be healed. Would-be healers claim they’re simply doing what Jesus himself did and what he instructed his followers to do. They may mean well, but the experience can leave disabled people feeling judged as ‘faulty’ and in need of repair. Is this really what Christianity teaches about disability? In this programme, Damon (a blind journalist and open-minded non-believer) investigates different Christian approaches to disability, combining cutting-edge theology with personal stories of faith, hope and human frailty. He joins a group of Christians as they offer healing on the street, attends a healing service and meets the disabled Christians carving out a new ‘theology of disability’.
Lyndall Bywater, a Christian writer and prayer leader in the United Kingdom
Jonathan Conrathe, founder of Mission 24 – a Christian ministry that works with churches all over the world
Becky Tyler, who preached at the Greenbelt Christian festival
Candida Moss, the Edward Cadbury Professor of Theology at the University of Birmingham
Rev Zoe Hemming, vicar of St Andrews Church in the village of Aston in Shropshire, England.
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(Image: Damon on the tube, Credit: Sarah Dousse)