Life & Faith

Healing After Abortion

Putting aside the politics to talk about the real struggles some men and women face after abortion.


"It’s usually surrounded with secrecy, it’s not something they talk about casually like they would that they’re going to go get a breast implant and there’s a bad job done or a botched surgery. Because of the shame that a lot of the women do feel, it’s not inherently experienced as an empowering act, it’s something that they just don’t want a lot of people to know."

Abortion is an incredibly politicised issue, and a hotly debated topic. It seems like everyone has something to say about the "right to life" or the "right to choose" - or both.

Often hidden from view are those who have been through abortion, and how some of them - men and women alike - struggle with the decision they have made.

In this episode, we hear from some of these people, and from Dr Theresa Burke, a psychologist who has dedicated her life to helping those who’ve been impacted by abortion. She shares some of her confronting early experiences of being a counselor, and how they led her to start Rachel’s Vineyard, a retreat for women and men who are seeking help for depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress, and grief in the wake of abortion.


If you or someone you know is experiencing trauma or distress after having an abortion, we strongly urge you to seek support. In Australia, the Abortion Grief and Pregnancy Crisis Hotline is 1300 363 550.

Rachel’s Vineyard operates in 84 countries around the world, and 37 languages. For more information about Rachel’s Vineyard, visit:

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A Jesuit priest finds himself in an unexpected role as consultant on a Martin Scorsese film.


"What would you do for them? Pray? And get what in return? Only more suffering. The suffering only you can end, not God. I prayed too, Rodrigues, it doesn’t help. Go on. Pray. But pray with your eyes open."

These are the words of Father Christavao Ferreira from the film Silence. Based on a novel by Shūsaku Endō, Martin Scorsese has been wanting to tell this harrowing tale of Portuguese Jesuit priests in 17th-century Japan for more than 30 years. Liam Neeson plays Father Ferreira, a Jesuit who recants his faith after facing torture. Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver play two younger Jesuits on a mission to find their mentor and, just like Ferreira, they have to wrestle with the question of whether or not to renounce their faith in order to save their own lives – or the lives of others.

While this story is fictional, it has roots in the very real history of Christianity in Japan, a country where hundreds of thousands of Christians were brutally suppressed for 250 years.

In this episode of Life & Faith, we speak with Father James Martin, a Jesuit priest who acted as a consultant on the film and a spiritual advisor to the actors. Father Jim even led Andrew Garfield through the Spiritual Exercises – a compilation of meditations, prayers, and contemplative practices developed by St Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits – to prepare the actor for his role as Father Rodrigues.

He also tells us why the movie is particularly poignant for him ("It’s about Jesuits that are my heroes, the martyrs of Japan") and why it’s a movie for everyone about real spirituality:

"I think fake spirituality is, 'if you only believe in God, nothing will go wrong', or 'if something goes wrong, all you have to do is believe in God and pray and everything will be fine'. I think real spirituality is, 'you can believe in God and things may go wrong … and then what?' What do you do when you’re a devout person, and things go terribly wrong or you have tragedy? You don’t just say, 'oh everything will be fine, God’s in charge' – I mean that is true, eventually everything will be fine and God is in charge – but where does your faith come in? And that’s really the question that this movie poses: what do you do in these difficult situations as a person of faith?"


Find more from Father James Martin on Facebook and Twitter.

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Another Day in Paradise

Facing the death penalty, Myuran Sukumaran chose to create art that pointed to redemption and hope.


"This is a story of redemption. This is a story about a person who, under really extreme circumstances, changed the way that he was living his life."

On April 29, 2015, Myuran Sukumaran was executed by firing squad in Indonesia. He had been arrested 10 years earlier for smuggling heroin, and was part of the group of Australian drug mules who came to be known as the Bali Nine.

In the years between his arrest and execution, Myuran completely turned his life around. He became a Christian, an artist and a model prisoner. At Kerobokan jail in Bali, he ran an art studio, and taught English and computer skills to his fellow death row inmates.

"I expected them to be very rough around the edges," says Christie Buckingham, Myuran’s pastor, mentor and friend. "I did not expect them to be as reformed as they were … and I was totally inspired by them, wowed by them, as a matter of fact."

In this episode, Christie describes her first meeting with Myuran, how she helped him navigate the last few years of his life, and the promise she made to him to keep fighting against the death penalty. Also, Michael Dagostino, Director of the Campbelltown Arts Centre, walks us through a new exhibition of Myuran’s artworks, Another Day in Paradise.


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Things You Cannot Prove

Alister McGrath, one of the world’s leading historians of science, explodes some common assumptions about science, religion, and atheism.


"I am very skeptical about these simplistic arguments that we only believe what we can prove. It’s not right. We can prove shallow truths, but the deep truths which give life meaning and value – they lie beyond proof."

Alister McGrath, the Chair of Science and Religion at the University of Oxford, describes his personal experience of faith as a "gradual movement" from atheism to Christianity. In fact, it was his scientific training that led him to faith in the first place!

In this episode, Professor McGrath tells how and why he stepped out of his comfort zone of atheism into the exciting "world of faith". He also navigates a couple of key moments in the history of science – including the scientific revolution and the birth of Darwinism – to uncover the influence of Christianity in unexpected places.


This interview was for our forthcoming documentary, For the Love of God: How the church is better and worse than you ever imagined. SIGN UP for the Director’s Pass for a look behind the scenes:

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Life & Faith: Nativity

An unwed mother-to-be. A husband contemplating a quickie divorce. A host of glorious angels visit a group of lowly shepherds. A star appears and a group of wise men follow it.

Laurel Moffatt tells us why the Nativity story still surprises, and delights, her today – and how she turned it into a play.

“It’s a whole series of scenes that are just bizarre and delightful and kind of hilarious and wonderful,” Laurel says. “It’s the best story we have.”


“Born Is The King” will be playing in Sydney on Christmas Eve 2016 at the 4pm Kids’ Carols event at The Garrison Church (60 Lower Fort Street, Millers Point). For more details, visit:

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Life & Faith: A Sunburnt Country

Finding your soulmate at a sing-a-long. Escaping domestic violence. The dedication of a chair. The tense world of succession planning. These are just some of the wonderful – and sometimes quirky – stories of life and faith we’ve gathered from the Australian Outback.

Journey with us to Broken Hill as we speak to the Flying Padre and the Founder of the Living Desert Indigenous Church, as well as some colourful locals.


Life & Faith: Love in the time of ISIS

Persecution – suffering and dying for what you believe in – is something that Christians have faced from the start – from the days of being thrown to the lions! Today, Christians in Northern Iraq have abandoned their homes and fled for their lives, or they have been captured and killed by ISIS.

Nik and Ruth Ripken have set out to uncover why people hold on to their faith in places where they face suffering and death. They’ve travelled to over 70 countries and spoken with more than 600 Christians to ask them why they don’t just give up.

But there’s a deeply personal element to their story. Nik and Ruth worked in war-torn Somalia in the ’90s, and what they saw there shook their confidence in what they believed:

“They killed four of my best friends in one day, and they threw their bodies away somewhere in the trash or toilet. Extremists stole their bodies and took them away, so we didn’t have a way of telling their story when they died, and we had no way of going to a place where they were buried so we could tell our children’s children about them,” Nik says. “I had to go find out [why Christians kept their faith in the face of persecution], because I couldn’t say any longer, ‘Greater is he who is in me, than he who is in the world’ - because it wasn’t true in Somalia.”

Whether or not you’re a religious person, religious freedom and persecution are human rights issues that all of us have a stake in. And Nik and Ruth’s story – of personal pain and loss, and of learning profound lessons about love and forgiveness from the unlikeliest people – will leave you amazed, moved, and certainly not dry-eyed.


Life & Faith: Looking Over the Fence

When people say that we live in a secular society, what does that really mean?

In this episode of Life & Faith, we explore the original meaning of secularism and track its development to the present day.

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Marilynne Robinson kicks us off with a few reflections on what people really think about religion. Legal philosopher Iain Benson, whose writing on secularism has been cited by the highest courts in Canada and South Africa, explains the surprising origins of the secular state. And Craig Calhoun, an American sociologist who was until recently Director of the London School of Economics, offers us some snapshots of how secularism plays out in different contexts today.

Then, Charles Taylor, who essentially wrote the book on this topic - his 800-page magnum opus, A Secular Age - ties the threads together. He describes our modern secular age as one in which all people – from the most devout believer to the staunchest atheist – find themselves looking over the fence at one another’s belief systems.


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Life & Faith: Based On A True Story

Mark Leach’s life reads like the script of a blockbuster movie. There’s diamond smuggling, war and conflict, some romance, and a couple of major plot twists.

He was born in a village in Zambia, trained as a doctor in South Africa, and is now based in Sydney as an Anglican Minister, a business and leadership consultant, and a Board Member for International Justice Mission.

In this episode of Life & Faith, Mark fills us in on all the remarkable details of his early life, and why – in the face of his experience of evil and trauma – he holds fast to his Christian faith.


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Life & Faith: Transgender Identity

Gender and gender identity is one of the most fraught issues of our time. We run into gender stereotypes everywhere from nursery rhymes to department store catalogues, and much of our lives are ordered around the categories of male and female - school uniforms, bathrooms, and Olympic sporting events are just a few examples.

But there’s a group of people for whom none of this is straightforward - people who experience gender dysphoria, and identify as transgender.

In this episode of Life and Faith, we explore this topic with Australian sexologist Dr Patricia Weerakoon in the broader context of identity, sexuality, and culture. Plus, we speak with “Joan” about her experience of gender dysphoria and what it’s like to live as a transgender woman.

If these conversations raise questions for you, cause any distress, or if you want to talk to someone about the issues we’ve discussed, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14, or use their online chat service at