|Republic of Albania|
Area 28,748 sq.km. A mountainous Balkan state on the Adriatic Sea, adjoining Yugoslavia (Montenegro and Kosovo/Serbia), Macedonia and Greece.
Over 500,000 Albanians fled or emigrated from the country in 1991-2000, reducing the above figures. A further 300,000 Kosovar refugees entered Albania in 1998-99.
Capital Tirana 275,000. Unofficially the population is nearer 500,000. Urbanites 48%.
Albanian 91.5%. Tosk in south; Gheg in north.
Other 8.5%. Greek 85,000; Roma (Gypsy) 80,000+; Vlach (Arumun) 40,000; Macedonian (Pataree and Gorani Muslim) 15,000.
Literacy 92%. Official language Albanian. All languages 6. Languages with Scriptures 3Bi 1NT 1por 1w.i.p.
The combined effects of wars, 46 years of nationalistic Marxism and the chaotic situation in the Balkans in the 1990s have ensured its continuation as one of Europe's poorest countries. Economic life is almost wholly dependent on remittances from Albanians abroad, smuggling and foreign aid. HDI 0.699; 100th/174. Public debt 24% of GNP. Income/person est. $670 (2.2% of USA).
The Communist regime imposed on the country in 1945 crumbled in 1991 soon after Dictator Enver Hoxha's death. Two multi-party elections finally resulted in a democratic government in 1992. Then ensued six years of anarchy followed by more stability since 1998. Restoration of land rights to pre-Communist landowners remains an unresolved issue. The unrest and potential for further bloodshed in Montenegro, Kosovo and Macedonia deeply impact Albania.
No religion was allowed to exist in Communist Albania. The ban was lifted in 1990, but no legal provision for religious freedom was made until 1998. The very existence of Evangelicals and other faiths is often portrayed by Muslims, Orthodox and Catholics as a disturbance to social custom.
Over 50% of the population is culturally Muslim, but superstition and folk Islam are strong. Many Muslims belong to the syncretistic Sufi Bektash movement.
1 Albania's experience with Communism has been economically, morally and spiritually devastating. The savagery of the repression was such that 700,000 were killed or imprisoned for long periods. A high proportion of the population was coerced into spying on neighbours. The anarchy, chaos and corruption of the 1990s is an outworking of this grim past. Pray for the peace and development of Albania and for the provision of just and fair government.
2 Religious freedom could be withdrawn. After Communism's collapse the Muslims, Catholics (in the north) and Orthodox Christians (in the south) sought to regain their past influence and to limit any other religious activity. Pray that the Balkan cauldron of ethnic and religious hatreds may not erode the present freedoms.
3 Muslim countries have poured in huge amounts of aid and missionaries. Over one million Qur'ans have been distributed, 900 mosques refurbished or built between 1993 and 1995, and thousands given scholarships to study Islamic theology abroad. The government secretly joined the World Muslim League and the Organization of the Islamic Conference to the dismay of many. Most of the mosques are poorly attended and ignorance of Islam is high among professing Muslims. Pray that Albania may be spared the sorrows of extreme Islamism, and that Muslims may turn from the religion forced on the population in the 14th Century by their Turkish Ottoman conquerors.
4 The evangelical witness in Albania has grown dramatically since 1991. Before WWII there was one functioning evangelical congregation in Korçe. By the end of 1992 there were over 1,000 believers gathering regularly in 19 congregations and 17 home fellowships. By 2000 there were over 55 denominations in over 130 congregations and 55 emerging groups. Over 80% of these are linked with the Albania Encouragement Project. The Albanian Evangelical Alliance links together 60% of all evangelical churches and agencies. Pray that Evangelicals may be recognized as having a wholesome role in the recovery of the country.
5 The training of leaders after the devastations wrought by the Communists is a major preoccupation of the Church. The Catholics and Orthodox had 136 in training for pastoral ministry in 1998. Evangelical agencies had to accelerate leadership development for the young congregations when so many expatriates were forced out of the country in the violence and anarchy of 1997. A number of agencies are involved in leadership training Albanian Bible Institute, YWAM DTS, Church Multiplication International, Lightforce and others. About 75 Albanians are in full-time training and many more on TEE distance-learning programmes (ABI).
6 Evangelical mission agencies have multiplied since 1990. In 1995 Albania was the most heavily 'missionized' country in Europe by both Muslims and Christians. Over 70 agencies have networked as part of the Albania Encouragement Project in both aid projects, literature production, evangelism and church planting. The larger groups are New Life (CCCI), YWAM (12 workers), Frontiers (11), OM (10), Ancient World Outreach (7), Albanian Evangelical Mission (10), Brethren (6). Pray for:
b) Long-term vision and goals. Much of the present work is short-term. Pray for the calling of long-term workers who learn the language and culture and then contribute to the maturing of churches and the training of leaders.
a) The 300,000 Bektashi are a Sufi dervish movement not recognized as Muslims by the Sunni majority as their beliefs are more influenced by folk religion and the occult. Some have become evangelical believers.
b) The Vlach (related to the Romanians), Macedonians and Greeks are culturally Orthodox. Most live in the south and south-east of Albania. The Romanian Missionary Society has work among them in Gjirokaster.
a) Kosovar Albanians who are 98% Muslim with very few Christians. The 1998 Kosovo War between Serbians and Albanians resulted in UN intervention and control of this province which is still legally part of Yugoslavia. The massive flow of refugees resulted in many hearing the gospel for the first time. Albanian and expatriate Christians became deeply committed to their evangelization pushing the young Albanian Church into missions and church planting in Kosovo once the refugees returned. Pray that the Albanian Church may continue to grow in vision and maturity as a result.
c) Albanians in the EU. There have long been indigenous Albanian populations in Italy (350,000) and Greece (25,000), but many ethnic Albanians now live and work in Switzerland (175,000), Germany (700,000), France, Belgium and the Netherlands. Pray that these may be reached.
a) Distribution of the Scriptures is vital. A paraphrased Bible was completed in 1992 and a further translation in 1993. Large numbers of NTs and Bibles have been distributed. Pray for their spiritual impact.
b) Christian, Muslim and cult literature has flooded into Albania during the 1990s. EHC has twice distributed gospel literature in every home of every village with over 3,000 responses. Christian books are being published in Albania by the indigenous Vernon Karte e Pende and Shigjeta as well as by several missions. There are several Christian bookstores. Pray that Albanians may read the right literature and benefit from it.
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