September 17th 2010 is due to see a visit to Twickenham from the Pope - the head of the Roman Catholic Church will be at St Mary's University College as part of a state visit.
The trip will take in several locations in the UK, but has raised concerns by members of Richmond's gay, bisexual and lesbian community. Representatives of the Protest the Pope and National Secular Society (NSS) don't appear to object to the visit in principle as a religious leader, but that it has 'state' status - "something that accords honour and public funding" (the visit is said to be costing taxpayers £12m and the Catholic Church £7m) - presumably an affront following the years of campaigning to gain public tolerance and understanding.
It's a sensitive issue, as clearly religious supporters would welcome the first Papal visit to the UK since 1982, but the protest group feel that many issues are misrepresented by the Catholic Church or disapproved of unnecessarily.
There is a lot of online commentary going on about the Papal visit, with opinions varying on both sides (ie in favour and not). I'd be interested to know how people really feel about the situation.
How different would the feelings behind a protest be, for example, if it were opposing religious communities leading the march?
I'm all for freedom of speech and on this particular issue publish no particular opinion, but would expect both sides of the debate to speak out with tolerance and respect - if you took the average household as a microcosm of human society for example, opinions would vary as to what to watch on television, who has sugar in their tea, whether towels dry better on the floor or on the rail. We conduct these differences (for the most part) with tolerance, or the functionality of the household would suffer greatly. Max that up to general society, and whilst differences are enhanced the simple skills we use at home should still come into play.
Hopefully the Pope's visit can go off in September without rancour and animosity, from either side.
Maybe we should start a National Mutual Tolerance Week about halfway through September....
Silas Van Der Bas
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Silas Van Der Bas is a freelance writer and photographer with The Little White Studio.