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Cold War Leftovers

“And the next speaker is . . . ,” the chairman pauses as she runs her eyes down a long handwritten list, “the Anti-Defamation League for Yoga and Spiritual Movements followed by ‘Istiqbolli Avlod’ Youth Information-Enlightening Center, Tashkent Branch.”  Sitting around a vast table, representatives of 57 states listen to a lady with bottle-blonde hair talk about how yoga teachers are persecuted in Italy.  After 90 seconds her time is up, and the next speaker reads out a text in heavily accented and unintelligible Russian.  It goes on all afternoon.

We sit listening to how the Plymouth Brethren cannot get registered with the Charity Commission in the United Kingdom; to Greeks from Turkey about how horrible the Turks are, and to Turks from Greece about how horrible the Greeks are; and to Scientologists about how everyone is horrible to them everywhere.  We hear a group called Atheist Ireland complaining about the control exercised by the “chameleon-like” Catholic Church over schools in the Republic; from Jehovah’s Witnesses and other sects about how they are harassed in France and Russia.  We hear several times about the fate of a Protestant pastor somewhere in central Asia.

You might think, from this description, that this is some marginal congress of nutters.  You would be right.  Welcome to the annual...

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