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December 24 & 27: from Shanghai - Touba

How to exploit Africa in just a few easy steps. A Canadian journalist exposes the simple rules of a cynical game.

China versus the churches. Christianity offends the Communist Party, but the churches strike back.

Relics of the saints. The author of a new book explores why the bones of the dead have such power over faith and conflict.

And ecstatic pandemonium. Take a Sufi pilgrimage with the devout of Senegal to the holy city of Touba.

An encore edition of the best from our past year's programs

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Individual items from this week's show are not available. But you can listen to them in Part 1 and Part 2 of the programme (above).

The cross Chinese Christians bear

Rick writes:

I once spent a splendid autumn afternoon in Shanghai trying to persuade an elderly priest to record an interview about the challenges confronting the Catholic Church in China.

When I finally ran out of reasons he'd likely heard before, he said he'd be happy to do it.

Providing I got permission from the government.

China is officially, aggressively and unalterably atheist.

That said, the Communist Party is far less hostile towards Christianity these days than it was under Mao.

These days, it beats and jails only the elderly Priests and Pastors who compete with it for the public's loyalty.

CBC Radio's China Correspondent, Anthony Germain, took us up to the altars of that spiritual conflict: the legal and illegal churches of China.

The holy dead 

When Taliban leader Mohammed Omar wanted to legitimise his leadership in Afghanistan back in 1996, he knew just how to go about it.

He had himself named The Commander Of The Faithful, and sealed the deal by donning the cloak of the Prophet Mohammed, signifying he was also leader of all Muslims.

The power people invest in relics like the cloak as well as snippets of human remains fascinates Peter Manseau.

For him, the roots of faith and conflict are quite literally in our bones, and many churches around the world display the relics of their saints.

Having seen many of them, he's explored those ideas in his recent book Rag And Bones: A Journey Among The World's Holy Dead.

Rag And Bones is published by Holt.

The Africa we don't know

When we hear from Africa, we hear of conflict and chaos. We rarely hear the backstory.

Take Mali, up on the bulge, in northwest Africa. One of the poorest countries in the world.   But Canadian journalist Joan Baxter knows it was once among the richest.

Joan Baxter's book, Dust From Our Eyes: An Unblinkered Look At Africa, sifts through history for the things that have impoverished Africa

She calls them The Rules Of The Game. It's a kind of primer in how to screw over an African state.

Cut a deal for its natural resources. Cut in its powerful people. Cut out the rest.

Oh, and call it a struggling democracy. People will forgive a dictator a lot if they think he's trying.

After 30 years in Africa, Joan Baxter is back home in Canada.

Joan Baxter is a Canadian journalist and anthropologist. Dust From Our Eyes is published by Wolsak and Wynn.

The title comes from a west African proverb: before rushing in to help remove a straw from your neighbour's eye, you should pause and remove the dust from your own.

At the brink of Paradise

In the west African state of Senegal, they tell a story about the legendary Muslim cleric, Amadou Bamba.

Back in colonial days, the French forced him out of the country.

Even on the ship carrying him to exile, he was forbidden to pray on deck.

So, Sheikh Bamba throws a sheepskin out onto the water. Then he steps down on to it, and prays. Without sinking!

These days, the sheik's reputation attracts millions to the annual pilgrimage in Senegal known as The Grand Magal  -- the Big Celebration -- every February.

Last year, Canadian writer Sheldon Chad was among those bound for the sacred city of Touba.

This program is the work of producers Dawna Dingwall, Alison Masemann and Steve McNally, technical producers Victor Johnston and Tim Lorimer  and senior producer Alan Guettel.

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