There has always been a synergy between spirituality and space, even before man first escaped the boundaries of our home planet. Once they did, astronauts in orbit reported feelings of awe and wonder. Viewing the Earth from on high, they were transfixed by the magic such a perspective brings.
Astronaut Charlie Walker, one of the crew of the space shuttle Discovery, takes a close-up look at the phenomenon that’s become known as the 'overview effect'. It was writer Frank White who first coined the term, describing it as ‘a cognitive shift in awareness’ - a meditative or even spiritual experience. You can see it in the brain, as neuroscientist Dr Andrew Newburgh reveals.
On returning to Earth, astronauts talk of a deep desire to make the world a better place, to engage with others and make full use of the powers that being part of an elite few has given them. What if we could all experience the overview effect? With commercial space flights and state of the art terrestrial technology, it could soon become a reality.
Views from the heavens have been described as a cosmic wake up call, a reminder we're all travelling on 'spaceship Earth' together. Charlie Walker explores whether it could be the key to a more caring, sharing world.
Image: The Earth as seen from the International Space Station (Credit: Tim Peake/ESA/Nasa)
Rwanda’s Muslims 25 years after the genocide
Rwanda has been remembering the 100 days of Genocide which led to hundreds of thousands of its people were slaughtered.
Twenty five years on from that and to mark the end of the 100 days of mourning, Audrey Brown tells the story of a relatively unknown result of that time – the rise in Islam in Rwanda. She will hear how in the worst days of the genocide, Muslims shielded, saved and harbored Tutsis as they were chased down by Hutus. At that time, there were just a handful of Muslims here but now its estimated that Muslims make up 10% of this country.
This is in contrast to Christian churches, and Audrey hears how they were complicit in many thousands of deaths and she meets the Muslims who were so affected by what they witnessed in 1994 that they converted from Christianity to Islam
Produced and Presented by Audrey Brown
Production John Gakuba and Helen Roberts
Images: Audrey Brown
Religion and climate change in Nairobi
For the BBC World Service, Nairobi based journalist and broadcaster Ciru Muriuki brings together young people of different faiths, together with a live audience, at the National Museum in Nairobi, Kenya, to hear what people want from their religious leaders and hear how faith motivates their activism.
We’ll hear from young people in Kenya who are putting themselves on the front lines of the battle to save the planet. Some are helping farmers and communities find sustainable ways to earn income; others are picking plastic out of the sea and marching to get attention from those in power. Some say their faith compels them to protect wildlife and care for all living beings; others say energies would be better put into forcing high polluting countries to change their ways while in Kenya the focus should be on development, education and relieving poverty.
In a continent that is experiencing the effects of climate change disproportionately compared to many parts of the world, how should religious leaders of every faith be mobilizing their communities?
Producer: Louise Clarke-Rowbotham
Photo: Hundreds of people with placards take part in demonstration in Nairobi calling for climate change justice for Africa.
Credit: SIMON MAINA/AFP/Getty Images
Rebuilding Notre Dame
In the hours after the fire at Notre Dame Cathedral, French President Macron said France would rebuild Notre Dame to be “more beautiful than ever".
In the days that followed, some of Frances wealthiest people promised millions of Euros to ensure that actually happened.
But the fire has awoken this country. Even some atheists have suddenly realised what this means to its Christian heritage. The French word is ‘patrimoine’ from ‘patres’ – fathers and ‘monere’ memory, the memory of our fathers.
The fire at Notre Dame shook France, but does the desire to restore it show a new affinity with religion or a chance for the country to restore some civic pride? John asks whether this has been a wake-up call for France’s church and new hope for a revival of the "faith of our fathers".
Photo: Tourist as seen taking pictures and selfies of the Notre Dame Cathedral in June 2019.
Credit: Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images.
Football and belief for Egypt's Copts
Mina Bendary is a good footballer, once thought to be one of the better players in Egypt. As his country hosts the African Cup of Nations, Mina won’t be involved because, he believes, he is a Coptic Christian.
Egypt are attempting to win AFCON with a team that is made up of Muslims. Perhaps, because Copts only make up only 10% of Egypt’s population, the lack of Copts in this year’s squad might be pure coincidence. But Mina says that discrimination against Copts in the country’s national sport is no secret.
Shaimaa Khalil travels back to her home city of Alexandria to meet Mina, as well as other Christians who tell her of the discrimination they have suffered trying to make it in football. In some cases she hears they have even been told to change their names to something more Muslim sounding.
But the authorities disagree, saying that no one is discriminated against and that if Copts are not making it, that is because they do not have the right attitude.
Presenter: Shaimaa Khalil
Production: Helen Roberts, Moussa Zarif
Image: Shaimaa Khalil/BBC