Of all religious groups Baptists were among the most fiercely persecuted in the Soviet Union. They were not just Christians but they also distrusted the state, preaching an institutional secession from state-run institutions. Many Baptists belonged to the German-speaking minority in Southern Russia and Kazakhstan. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, they emigrated to Germany, the land where their forefathers had originally come from. Today, these Baptist immigrants from Russia, as well as the Low-German Mennonites, are being prosecuted in Germany because they are unhappy with what their children are learning in the German public schools, which they consider too secular. Children are not allowed to opt out of classes or school activities and homeschooling is illegal in Germany since Adolf Hitler outlawed it in 1938.
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Belgium’s King Albert II has offered his condolences. Albert and Fahd crossed each other’s paths when they were both crown princes, but the Belgian will probably not like to be reminded of it. The new Saudi king, Abdullah, Fahd’s halfbrother, is also a friend of Albert’s, from the same period in Albert’s womanising past.
Wim Duisenberg, the 70-year old Dutch founding chairman of the European Central Bank, died today at a moment when his creation, the euro, is under threat. According to Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, “everybody” has been “screwed” by the euro. Berlusconi’s statement is generally perceived as marking the beginning of the campaign for the Italian general elections of May 2006. A shrewd politician, the Prime Minister is expressing the gut feeling of many Italians.
According to this week’s Economist the Sinn Féin statement announcing the end of the IRA’s armed activities was delayed so that it would not “be overshadowed by the new, more violent terror campaign being waged by jihadis on the British mainland.” Were the IRA bombs that killed civilians in pubs and shopping streets less violent than al-Qaeda’s? The only difference, as far as I can see, is that the IRA members did not believe in blowing up themselves in the process. Does that make them less violent than suicide bombers?
In the late 1970s, when I was living in England, The Guardian was the most Soviet friendly of all British broadsheet newspapers, constantly trying to find excuses for Soviet behaviour by implying that the West was morally at least as evil as its adversaries. Apparently The Guardian has learned no lessons from the fall of Communism in 1989.
Brussels, the capital of Belgium but also of the European Union and of NATO, is not prepared for a terrorist attack. After a warning by the chief of the Brussels fire brigade that his men would never be able to cope with an attack on more than one underground station, Véronique Paulus de Châtelet, the Governor of Brussels, confirmed on Tuesday that Brussels does not have an emergency plan in case of an attack by al-Qaeda or other likeminded criminal organisations.
Tocqueville (1805-1859) was born 200 years ago, on 29 July 1805. He became known through his books “Democracy in America” (published in 1835 and 1840 in two volumes after a visit to the United States) and “The Old Regime and the Revolution” (a history of the French Revolution of 1789, published in 1856).