Belfast Telegraph

Ruth Dudley Edwards: Although Lyra was not at all religious, her impulses were undoubtedly of a Christian hue

 

Flames and smoke rise from the blaze at Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris last week
Flames and smoke rise from the blaze at Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris last week
Ruth Dudley Edwards

By Ruth Dudley Edwards

I was brought up a Roman Catholic but I ceased to be a believer a very long time ago. Yet I would describe myself as a Christian atheist, for of all the religions I know about, it is Christianity I most admire and feel at home with.

There is very little Jesus Christ is reputed to have said that I disagree with, and once I grew out of my militant phase I began to take a benign interest in religious art, architecture and music.

Researching a book on the Orange Order then made me at home with hymn singing. When I organised a memorial service for my friend Sean O'Callaghan, the IRA killer who became a warrior against terrorism and who was also an ex-Roman Catholic, it was in a beautiful Anglican church that he had specified in his will, there were hymns, and the vicar prayed for him and his victims.

I also recognise the blindingly obvious truth that Christianity is the bedrock of Western civilisation. I get very upset about indifference to the world-wide persecution of Christians and I abhor the aggressive secularism of our society, which so emphasises rights rather than obligations.

I've been thinking and writing a lot in the past few days about my murdered friend Lyra McKee, and a recurring thought was that though she was not religious, her impulses were what many of us think of as Christian.

I recall a distressed call she made to me when she had seen a homeless man being thrown out of a coffee shop although she had offered to buy him coffee to drink there.

There was her deep concern for the weak and the bullied, the ground-breaking work about the terrible prevalence of suicide since the Belfast Agreement, her obsessive interest in what happened to forgotten children who went missing during the Troubles, and her inspiring of young people terrified to admit they were gay.

Sign In

In a very Lyra/Christian way, her advice to them was to be brave, to be honest, and never to treat those who disapproved of homosexuality as enemies, but rather make friends with them.

I think all that would have met Jesus Christ's criteria for what made a good person.

Last week, like millions of others, I watched horrified as Notre-Dame was engulfed in flames, so I was particularly shocked by an article written next day about the BBC coverage (https://www.thearticle.com/ignorance-and-anti-catholic-bias-at-the-bbc-a-former-employee-writes).

Lyra's partner - Sara Canning
A vigil is held for Lyra McKee in Fanad Drive Creggan on April 19th 2019 (Photo by Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph)
Lyra's partner - Sara Canning A vigil is held for Lyra McKee in Fanad Drive Creggan on April 19th 2019 (Photo by Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph)
An upset friend as A vigil is held for Lyra McKee in Fanad Drive Creggan on April 19th 2019 (Photo by Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph)
A vigil is held for Lyra McKee in Fanad Drive Creggan on April 19th 2019 (Photo by Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph)
A vigil is held for Lyra McKee in Fanad Drive Creggan on April 19th 2019 (Photo by Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph)
A vigil is held for Lyra McKee in Fanad Drive Creggan on April 19th 2019 (Photo by Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph)
A vigil is held for Lyra McKee in Fanad Drive Creggan on April 19th 2019 (Photo by Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph)
A vigil is held for Lyra McKee in Fanad Drive Creggan on April 19th 2019 (Photo by Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph)
A vigil is held for Lyra McKee in Fanad Drive Creggan on April 19th 2019 (Photo by Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph)
A vigil is held for Lyra McKee in Fanad Drive Creggan on April 19th 2019 (Photo by Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph)
A vigil is held for Lyra McKee in Fanad Drive Creggan on April 19th 2019 (Photo by Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph)
PACEMAKER BELFAST 18/4/2019 Deputy Chief Constable Stephen Martin at the scene after 29-year-old Lyra McKee who was shot dead during rioting after police searches in Derry's Creggan area on Thursday night. Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton said the New IRA "are likely to be the ones behind this" and detectives have started a murder inquiry. Photo Colm Lenaghan/ Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 18/4/2019 Naomi Long Long at the scene after 29-year-old Lyra McKee who was shot dead during rioting after police searches in Derry's Creggan area on Thursday night. Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton said the New IRA "are likely to be the ones behind this" and detectives have started a murder inquiry. Photo Colm Lenaghan/ Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 18/4/2019 The Vigil for 29-year-old Lyra McKee who was shot dead during rioting after police searches in Derry's Creggan area on Thursday night. Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton said the New IRA "are likely to be the ones behind this" and detectives have started a murder inquiry. Photo Colm Lenaghan/ Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 18/4/2019 Deputy Chief Constable Stephen Martin at the scene after 29-year-old Lyra McKee who was shot dead during rioting after police searches in Derry's Creggan area on Thursday night. Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton said the New IRA "are likely to be the ones behind this" and detectives have started a murder inquiry. Photo Colm Lenaghan/ Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 18/4/2019 Forensics at the scene after 29-year-old Lyra McKee who was shot dead during rioting after police searches in Derry's Creggan area on Thursday night. Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton said the New IRA "are likely to be the ones behind this" and detectives have started a murder inquiry. Photo Colm Lenaghan/ Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 18/4/2019 Mary Lou McDonald at the scene after 29-year-old Lyra McKee who was shot dead during rioting after police searches in Derry's Creggan area on Thursday night. Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton said the New IRA "are likely to be the ones behind this" and detectives have started a murder inquiry. Photo Colm Lenaghan/ Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 18/4/2019 Colm Eastwood SDLP at the scene after 29-year-old Lyra McKee who was shot dead during rioting after police searches in Derry's Creggan area on Thursday night. Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton said the New IRA "are likely to be the ones behind this" and detectives have started a murder inquiry. Photo Colm Lenaghan/ Pacemaker Press
Lyra Vigil
PACEMAKER BELFAST 18/4/2019 Arlene Foster at the scene after 29-year-old Lyra McKee who was shot dead during rioting after police searches in Derry's Creggan area on Thursday night. Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton said the New IRA "are likely to be the ones behind this" and detectives have started a murder inquiry. Photo Colm Lenaghan/ Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 18/4/2019 Mary Lou McDonald at the scene after 29-year-old Lyra McKee who was shot dead during rioting after police searches in Derry's Creggan area on Thursday night. Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton said the New IRA "are likely to be the ones behind this" and detectives have started a murder inquiry. Photo Colm Lenaghan/ Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 18/4/2019 Sarah Canning Partner of Lyra McKee during a vigil at the scene after 29-year-old Lyra McKee who was shot dead during rioting after police searches in Derry's Creggan area on Thursday night. Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton said the New IRA "are likely to be the ones behind this" and detectives have started a murder inquiry. Photo Colm Lenaghan/ Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 18/4/2019 Sarah Canning Partner of Lyra McKee during a vigil at the scene after 29-year-old Lyra McKee who was shot dead during rioting after police searches in Derry's Creggan area on Thursday night. Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton said the New IRA "are likely to be the ones behind this" and detectives have started a murder inquiry. Photo Colm Lenaghan/ Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 18/4/2019 Sarah Canning Partner of Lyra McKee during a vigil at the scene after 29-year-old Lyra McKee who was shot dead during rioting after police searches in Derry's Creggan area on Thursday night. Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton said the New IRA "are likely to be the ones behind this" and detectives have started a murder inquiry. Photo Colm Lenaghan/ Pacemaker Press
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 19th April 2019 - Photo by Lorcan Doherty / Press Eye. The community vigil held on Fanad Drive, Creggan, following the murder of 29 years-old Lyra McKee. Frt. Joe Gormley, PP, Creggan.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 19th April 2019 - Photo by Lorcan Doherty / Press Eye. The community vigil held on Fanad Drive, Creggan, following the murder of 29 years-old Lyra McKee. DUP leader Arlene Foster arrives with party colleagues Gary Middleton and Gregory Campbell. Included are Fr. Joe Gormley and Bishop Ken Good.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 19th April 2019 - Photo by Lorcan Doherty / Press Eye. The community vigil held on Fanad Drive, Creggan, following the murder of 29 years-old Lyra McKee. PSNI officers place floral tributes left at the scene.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 19th April 2019 - Photo by Lorcan Doherty / Press Eye. The community vigil held on Fanad Drive, Creggan, following the murder of 29 years-old Lyra McKee. Local Sinn Fein Councillor Kevin Campbell speaking with DUP leader Arlene Foster and party colleagues Gary Middleton and Gregory Campbell.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 19th April 2019 - Photo by Lorcan Doherty / Press Eye. The community vigil held on Fanad Drive, Creggan, following the murder of 29 years-old Lyra McKee. PSNI officers place floral tributes left at the scene.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 19th April 2019 - Photo by Lorcan Doherty / Press Eye. The community vigil held on Fanad Drive, Creggan, following the murder of 29 years-old Lyra McKee. Alliance Party leader Naomi Long, with Mayor Councillor John Boyle.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 19th April 2019 - Photo by Lorcan Doherty / Press Eye. The community vigil held on Fanad Drive, Creggan, following the murder of 29 years-old Lyra McKee. Alliance Party leader Naomi Long, with the DUP's Gregory Campbell and Arlene Foster
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 19th April 2019 - Photo by Lorcan Doherty / Press Eye. The community vigil held on Fanad Drive, Creggan, following the murder of 29 years-old Lyra McKee. DUP party leader Arlene Foster, Alliance Party leader Naomi Long and Sinn Fein MEP Martinas Anderson.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 19th April 2019 - Photo by Lorcan Doherty / Press Eye. The community vigil held on Fanad Drive, Creggan, following the murder of 29 years-old Lyra McKee. Alliance Party leader Naomi Long, SDLP party leader Colum Eastwood, Gregory Campbell, MLA, The Mayor of Derry and Strabane, Councillor John Boyle, DUP leader Arlene Foster and Councillor Kevin Campbell.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 19th April 2019 - Photo by Lorcan Doherty / Press Eye. The community vigil held on Fanad Drive, Creggan, following the murder of 29 years-old Lyra McKee. SDLP party leader Colum Eastwood, DIUP party leader Arlene Foster and the Mayor of Derry and Strabane, Councillor John Boyle.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 19th April 2019 - Photo by Lorcan Doherty / Press Eye. The community vigil held on Fanad Drive, Creggan, following the murder of 29 years-old Lyra McKee. Sinn Fein's Pearse Doherty and SDLP leader Colum Eastwood.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 19th April 2019 - Photo by Lorcan Doherty / Press Eye. The community vigil held on Fanad Drive, Creggan, following the murder of 29 years-old Lyra McKee. SDLP leader Colum Eastwood, DUP party leader Arlene Foster, Alliance Party leader Naomi Long and Sinn Fein MEP Martinas Anderson.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 19th April 2019 - Photo by Lorcan Doherty / Press Eye. The community vigil held on Fanad Drive, Creggan, following the murder of 29 years-old Lyra McKee. Most Rev. Dr. Donal McKeown, Bishop of Derry, and Right Rev. Dr. Ken Good, Bishop of Derry and Raphoe.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 19th April 2019 - Photo by Lorcan Doherty / Press Eye. The community vigil held on Fanad Drive, Creggan, following the murder of 29 years-old Lyra McKee. Most Rev. Dr. Donal McKeown, Bishop of Derry, Right Rev. Dr. Ken Good, Bishop of Derry and Raphoe, and the Mayor of Derry and Strabane, Councillor John Boyle.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 19th April 2019 - Photo by Lorcan Doherty / Press Eye. The community vigil held on Fanad Drive, Creggan, following the murder of 29 years-old Lyra McKee. Alliance leader Naomi Long, Sinn Fein Leader Mary Lou McDonald and DUP leader Arlene Foster.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 19th April 2019 - Photo by Lorcan Doherty / Press Eye. The community vigil held on Fanad Drive, Creggan, following the murder of 29 years-old Lyra McKee. Most Rev. Dr. Donal McKeown, Bishop of Derry, and Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 19th April 2019 - Photo by Lorcan Doherty / Press Eye. The community vigil held on Fanad Drive, Creggan, following the murder of 29 years-old Lyra McKee. Alliance leader Naomi Long, SDLP leader Colum Eastwood, Sinn Fein Leader Mary Lou McDonald and DUP leader Arlene Foster, Bishop Ken Good, Mary Hamilton and Bishop Donal McKeown.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 19th April 2019 - Photo by Lorcan Doherty / Press Eye. The community vigil held on Fanad Drive, Creggan, following the murder of 29 years-old Lyra McKee. Lyra McKee's partner Sarah Canning speaking to DIUP leader Arlene Foster.
The community vigil held on Fanad Drive, Creggan, following the murder of 29 years-old Lyra McKee. Alliance leader Naomi Long, Sinn Fein Leader Mary Lou McDonald and DUP leader Arlene Foster, Bishop Ken Good, Mary Hamilton and Bishop Donal McKeown.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 19th April 2019 - Photo by Lorcan Doherty / Press Eye. The community vigil held on Fanad Drive, Creggan, following the murder of 29 years-old Lyra McKee.
PACEMAKER BELFAST 18/4/2019 The NUJ hold a vigil at the Guildhall in memory of 29-year-old Lyra McKee ,who was shot dead during rioting after police searches in Derry's Creggan area on Thursday night. Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton said the New IRA "are likely to be the ones behind this" and detectives have started a murder inquiry. Photo Colm Lenaghan/ Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 18/4/2019 The NUJ hold a vigil at the Guildhall in memory of 29-year-old Lyra McKee ,who was shot dead during rioting after police searches in Derry's Creggan area on Thursday night. Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton said the New IRA "are likely to be the ones behind this" and detectives have started a murder inquiry. Photo Colm Lenaghan/ Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 18/4/2019 The NUJ hold a vigil at the Guildhall in memory of 29-year-old Lyra McKee ,who was shot dead during rioting after police searches in Derry's Creggan area on Thursday night. Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton said the New IRA "are likely to be the ones behind this" and detectives have started a murder inquiry. Photo Colm Lenaghan/ Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 18/4/2019 The NUJ hold a vigil at the Guildhall in memory of 29-year-old Lyra McKee ,who was shot dead during rioting after police searches in Derry's Creggan area on Thursday night. Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton said the New IRA "are likely to be the ones behind this" and detectives have started a murder inquiry. Photo Colm Lenaghan/ Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 18/4/2019 The NUJ hold a vigil at the Guildhall in memory of 29-year-old Lyra McKee ,who was shot dead during rioting after police searches in Derry's Creggan area on Thursday night. Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton said the New IRA "are likely to be the ones behind this" and detectives have started a murder inquiry. Photo Colm Lenaghan/ Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 18/4/2019 The NUJ hold a vigil at the Guildhall in memory of 29-year-old Lyra McKee ,who was shot dead during rioting after police searches in Derry's Creggan area on Thursday night. Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton said the New IRA "are likely to be the ones behind this" and detectives have started a murder inquiry. Photo Colm Lenaghan/ Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 18/4/2019 The NUJ hold a vigil at the Guildhall in memory of 29-year-old Lyra McKee ,who was shot dead during rioting after police searches in Derry's Creggan area on Thursday night. Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton said the New IRA "are likely to be the ones behind this" and detectives have started a murder inquiry. Photo Colm Lenaghan/ Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 18/4/2019 The NUJ hold a vigil at the Guildhall in memory of 29-year-old Lyra McKee ,who was shot dead during rioting after police searches in Derry's Creggan area on Thursday night. Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton said the New IRA "are likely to be the ones behind this" and detectives have started a murder inquiry. Photo Colm Lenaghan/ Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 18/4/2019 The NUJ hold a vigil at the Guildhall in memory of 29-year-old Lyra McKee ,who was shot dead during rioting after police searches in Derry's Creggan area on Thursday night. Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton said the New IRA "are likely to be the ones behind this" and detectives have started a murder inquiry. Photo Colm Lenaghan/ Pacemaker Press
PRESS EYE BELFAST - 19/4/19- PSNI officer lays floral tributes left by members of the public following the murder of 29-year-old Lyra McKee during rioting after police searches in the area last night.
PRESS EYE BELFAST - 19/4/19- Lyra McKee shooting, Derry. Grafitti close to the scene.
PRESS EYE BELFAST - 19/4/19- PSNI officer receives floral tributes left by members of the public following the murder of 29-year-old Lyra McKee during rioting after police searches in the area last night.
PRESS EYE BELFAST - 19/4/19- PSNI officer searching Fanad Drive in Creggan, Derry following the murder of 29-year-old Lyra McKee during rioting after police searches in the area last night.
PRESS EYE BELFAST - 19/4/19- Floral tributes left by members of the public following the murder of 29-year-old Lyra McKee during rioting after police searches in the area last night.
PRESS EYE BELFAST - 19/4/19- Floral tributes left by members of the public following the murder of 29-year-old Lyra McKee during rioting after police searches in the area last night.
A woman with a rainbow flag at a vigil at Belfast City Hall in memory of murdered journalist Lyra McKee. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday April 19, 2019. See PA story ULSTER Unrest Vigil. Photo credit should read: Liam McBurney/PA Wire
People hold candles during a vigil at Belfast City Hall in memory of murdered journalist Lyra McKee. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday April 19, 2019. See PA story ULSTER Unrest Vigil. Photo credit should read: Liam McBurney/PA Wire
People hold candles during a vigil at Belfast City Hall in memory of murdered journalist Lyra McKee. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday April 19, 2019. See PA story ULSTER Unrest Vigil. Photo credit should read: Liam McBurney/PA Wire
People signing a book of condolence after a vigil at Belfast City Hall in memory of murdered journalist Lyra McKee. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday April 19, 2019. See PA story ULSTER Unrest Vigil. Photo credit should read: Liam McBurney/PA Wire
John O'Doherty of the Rainbow Project reads a letter written by Lyra McKee when she was aged 24 called, Òa letter to my 14-year-old selfÓ, during a vigil at Belfast City Hall in memory of murdered journalist Lyra McKee. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday April 19, 2019. See PA story ULSTER Unrest Vigil. Photo credit should read: Liam McBurney/PA Wire
John O'Doherty of the Rainbow Project reads a letter written by Lyra McKee when she was aged 24 called, Òa letter to my 14-year-old selfÓ, during a vigil at Belfast City Hall in memory of murdered journalist Lyra McKee. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday April 19, 2019. See PA story ULSTER Unrest Vigil. Photo credit should read: Liam McBurney/PA Wire
People hold candles during a vigil at Belfast City Hall in memory of murdered journalist Lyra McKee. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday April 19, 2019. See PA story ULSTER Unrest Vigil. Photo credit should read: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

Catherine Utley, whose father TE (Peter) was an English Roman Catholic Ulster Unionist, is a retired news journalist who spent 30 years working for the BBC World Service.

"It really was a remarkable feat for BBC One's News At 10 last night to get through the entire programme without a single mention of any of these words: Christian; Christianity; Catholic; worship; worshippers; sacred; Mass; Holy Week," she wrote the day after the fire

It seemed, she said, "as if it hadn't occurred to any of them that the awful fire which had been engulfing Notre-Dame cathedral for several hours by the time they came on air was anything deeper or more meaningful - to billions, at least, of Christians worldwide (particularly Catholics) - than the tragic destruction of a particularly well-visited tourist attraction."

I posted on Twitter the first of those sentences and had a hugely positive response, although there and on Facebook there were also idiotic voices saying the BBC was quite right, as France is a secular country.

How could that in any way excuse the BBC's failure - as Ms Utley put it - "to acknowledge Notre-Dame's importance as France's most profound expression of the Christian civilisation on which an entire continent was founded"?

From her long experience of the BBC, she put this down to a combination of gross ignorance and the unthinking acceptance of a shared "enlightened" liberal view that regards Christian views on, for instance, abortion or euthanasia, as backward.

Well, in a week when all sane people hope that Lyra's murder will give a boost to peace, those of us who rejoice in living in what we consider the greatest civilisation ever in the history of the world must hope also that what happened to Notre-Dame will help keep Christianity alive.

Belfast Telegraph

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph