Bits of Albania
Albania is located in South Eastern Europe, snuggled between Greece, Macedonia, Kosovo, and Montenegro, directly across the Adriatic Sea from the “boot” of Italy.
The population is roughly 3.5 million people. The capital, Tirana, is blossoming in growth from 300,000 in 1991 to a population of 900,000+ in 2009.
Though only 28,750 square meters in size (similar to Maryland in the U.S.) Albania boasts the beauty of mountainous terrain and lovely coastal regions bordering both the Adriatic and Ionian Seas.
Albanians are some of the friendliest people in the world– though they live in ‘the poorest country in Europe’ Albanians are known for their rich hospitality, warmth and loyalty.
Bits about the History of Christianity in Albania
The Gospel made its way to Albania from the very beginning when Paul traveled around the North Mediterranean regions in his missionary journeys. In Rom. 15:19 he writes “… that from Jerusalem and round about unto Illyricum I have fully preached the Gospel of Christ”. What was then known as Illyricum is present day Albania. Tradition says that Albania welcomed Christianity even before it was declared a state religion by Constantine in the 4th century.
During the the Great Schism between Western and Eastern Christianity in 1054, Albania was divided in half, the southern part becoming Orthodox and the northern half Roman Catholic. Four centuries later Albania was invaded by the Turkish Empire. During this 500-year invasion, a policy of high taxes for non-Muslims converted the majority of the Albanians to Islam. These historic events are behind Albania’s religious make-up today which is roughly 70% Muslim, 10% Roman Catholic and 20% Greek Orthodox.
By the end of the Turkish invasion, in the 1890’s the first evangelical work began in Albania. As a result of the missionary efforts of the British and Foreign Bible Society several Albanians accepted Christ during that period and founded The Albanian Evangelical Brotherhood. The fall of the Turkish empire in the early 1900’s, the Balkan Wars and the eruption of the First World War halted these efforts until the mid 1930’s when some American missionaries established the first Evangelical churches in Albania.
When Dictator Enver Hoxha came to power in 1944, he initiated a strict Communist regime. For 45 years, this regime worked hard to destroy all traces of religion in the nation, destroying churches and mosques and imprisoning priests and religious workers. In 1967 Enver Hoxha declared Albania to be the world’s first atheist state.
When in the early 1990’s as Communism crumbled and Albania began to open up to the outside world, there were only 16 known evangelical believers who had survived the previous regime. Today, 19 years later, there are over 25,000 believers attending nearly 250 evangelical churches throughout the country. (Source: Arben Boboci, New Life Institute, Albania)