Often an emotional subject, the lens of religion offers profound insight into the world’s cultures. Religion plays a role in the world’s conflicts, art, health and the way all humans search for meaning.
The Sacred Steps Series explores the shifting landscape of religion and spirituality. Hear stories of people and communities who balance a commitment to long-held beliefs with an active modern life. Season 2 of this series has nine episodes.
Produced by Judy Silber and KALW Public Radio.
Episode 1: 25:30
Ebola in DRC
There’s a lot of talk about the the coronavirus pandemic has taken on our collective mental health. Years ago, people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo confronted another deadly and highly contagious disease. Like now, misinformation was rampant. No one trusted the health authorities. And in-person funerals were not allowed. Mental health counselor Noe Kasali was determined to help. He recognized a problem: that in the face of so many losses, survivors had no way to grieve.
Episode 2: 20:00
Fighting Asian American racism
Former President Trump labeled COVID-19 the “China Virus” and “Kung Flu.” Since then, violence targeting Asian Americans has surged. As a result, older Asian Americans are afraid of facing attacks on their walks to the grocery store. Parents fear harassment against their kids at school. Russell Jeung, the co-founder of the Stop AAPI Hate coalition, is determined to make this reality known. TIME magazine has listed the coalition founders among its 100 most influential people for 2021.
Episode 3: 25:30
Inside an Illinois maximum security prison with a theology professor and her students
COVID-19 prison lockdowns prevented family and friends from visiting the nation’s nearly two million prisoners; they also shut down education programs. At a maximum security prison near Chicago, one seminary professor managed to keep reaching inside.
Episode 4: 19:30
A Jain tech innovator combines a religious and global perspective
Mehool Sanghrajka isn’t your typical tech CEO. To start with, his worldview is grounded in ancient Indian philosophy, one which inspires him to serve not just his close-knit religious community, but people he’s never met. He believes education is the key to improving the life chances of children. As the coronavirus pandemic forced millions of students online, his Jain worldview and tech savvy helped him to meet the moment.
Episode 5: 25:30
A Buddhist lay minister asks ‘What is a good death?’
Caroline Yongue wants to talk about death, a subject many of us would rather avoid. She’s the founder and director of the Carolina Memorial Sanctuary, a small cemetery offering environmentally-friendly burials in Western North Carolina. The Sanctuary is grounded in a Buddhist ethos and committed to restoring native ecosystems. It’s also part of a larger project to change how Americans approach death and grief — creating new ways to live with loss, from the ground up.
Episode 6: 25:30
Art and the divine fuel a mission to help sex trafficked kids
California reports more cases of human trafficking than any state. In Oakland, most sex trafficking victims are Black girls under the age 18. Regina Evans is an activist and artist using her creative gifts to call attention to this crisis and rescue girls.
Episode 7: 23:30
Calling on ancient Maya wisdom to heal Guatemalan widows
The Central American country of Guatemala promotes its indigenous heritage to tourists. At the same time, its government has historically marginalized and discriminated against the Maya, many of whom endured terrible violence during a decades-long civil war. Twenty five years after the war’s end, human rights leader Rosalina Tuyuc is promoting healing for her people based on ancient Maya wisdom.
Episode 8: 23:30
Sister Dianna Ortiz survived torture in Guatemala and became a voice for victims
Independent producer Maria Martin offers this remembrance of the late Sister Dianna Ortiz, who survived torture in Guatemala during the 1980s. She and went on to fight for human rights and to speak out about the use of torture globally. She did so until her death in February 2021, even while still suffering from the trauma of her experience.
Episode 9: 26:30
Making space for women In mosques
Women don’t always feel welcome in American mosques. They’re sometimes turned away, sent to basements to pray, or discouraged from serving on the boards of directors. Aisha al-Adawiya has devoted her life to changing that. She’s inspired a national campaign — and a fatwa — that’s persuading the men who control mosques to share space and power.