As Beni knelt in the mud in the national stadium in 1991 and confessed his faith in Jesus Christ, it didn’t occur to him that he was among the firstborn of a new generation of Christians in his country.
Since 1967, when Albania proudly declared itself atheist, it had been known as the “most closed country in the world” to the gospel. For decades, Albania had endured a winter of religious oppression under the brutal dictatorship of Enver Hoxha. (It is estimated that as many as 700,000 people were imprisoned and or put to death during his dictatorship.) As communism fell across Eastern Europe in the early 1990s, Albania was finally opened to the gospel again.
An evangelistic campaign was held at the national stadium in the capital, Tirana, for the first time in history. It was there that Beni met Jesus. No active evangelical churches had existed anywhere in the country, but miraculously within a few years new churches were planted in most towns and cities in Albania. Lasting seeds of biblical truth have now been sown across the nation.
The Albanian population is 70 per cent Muslim (a high percentage of Muslims are not practising Islam in an organised way). In addition there are several hundred thousand Catholics and Orthodox Christians with varying levels of faith and practice. In 1990 the number of evangelical Christians could be counted on one hand, but now they make up about 0.25 per cent of the population (about 20,000). As in many Muslim countries the real religion in Albania is materialism, which appears in the people as a pervasive preoccupation with improving their standard of living. Religion is generally seen as a means to obtain “fat” (good luck in life). Often Albanians will say how “God is one”, meaning that He is the same reliable source for all religions. Yet the idea of a personal relationship with our heavenly Father remains largely unknown to them.
In spite of these barriers, many Albanian believers are trusting in God to transform their country into a Christian nation, even one that sends out missionaries. A high level of unity is reflected in cooperation and healthy communication among many of the churches and missions. This is an excellent beginning.
Pray for the Muslims in Albania:
* Pray for there to be more openings for the gospel among the Muslim population. May a wave of salvation wash across Albania!
* Pray for strength and wisdom for first-generation Christian families who are learning to apply biblical truths in their relationships, attitudes and habits.
* Pray that the kingdom of God will be manifest in multiple areas of society, from the workplace to the home. Pray for effective ministry concerning social ills such as rampant corruption, abortion, drugs, crime, materialism and violence in the home.
* Albania is in the Balkans, which has been known for centuries as a region of ethnic strife and division. Pray for the Church, that it would be delivered from this negative inheritance and become a source of lasting healing in the region.
Background on Albania (World Factbook)
Between 1990 and 1992 Albania ended 46 years of xenophobic Communist rule and established a multiparty democracy. The transition has proven challenging as successive governments have tried to deal with high unemployment, widespread corruption, a dilapidated physical infrastructure, powerful organized crime networks, and combative political opponents.
Albania has made progress in its democratic development since first holding multiparty elections in 1991, but deficiencies remain. International observers judged elections to be largely free and fair since the restoration of political stability following the collapse of pyramid schemes in 1997. In the 2005 general elections, the Democratic Party and its allies won a decisive victory on pledges of reducing crime and corruption, promoting economic growth, and decreasing the size of government. The election, and particularly the orderly transition of power, was considered an important step forward.
Although Albania’s economy continues to grow, the country is still one of the poorest in Europe, hampered by a large informal economy and an inadequate energy and transportation infrastructure. Albania has played a largely helpful role in managing inter-ethnic tensions in southeastern Europe, and is continuing to work toward joining NATO and the EU. Albania, with troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, has been a strong supporter of the global war on terrorism.
Economy of Albania
Lagging behind its Balkan neighbors, Albania is making the difficult transition to a more modern open-market economy. The government has taken measures to curb violent crime and reduce the large gray economy. The economy is bolstered by annual remittances from abroad of $600-$800 million, mostly from Albanians residing in Greece and Italy; this helps offset the towering trade deficit. Agriculture, which accounts for about one-quarter of GDP, is held back because of lack of modern equipment, unclear property rights, and the prevalence of small, inefficient plots of land. Energy shortages and antiquated and inadequate infrastructure contribute to Albania’s poor business environment. On the positive side, growth was strong and inflation is low and stable.
Statistics on Albania
Population: 3,002,859 (July 2012 est.) World rank #137
Life Expectancy at Birth: 77.59 years. World rank #62
Ethnic groups: Albanian 95%, Greek 3%, other 2% (Vlach, Roma (Gypsy), Serb, Macedonian, Bulgarian) (1989 est.)
note: in 1989, other estimates of the Greek population ranged from 1% (official Albanian statistics) to 12% (from a Greek organization)
Religions: Muslim 70%, Albanian Orthodox 20%, Roman Catholic 10%
note: percentages are estimates; there are no available current statistics on religious affiliation; all mosques and churches were closed in 1967 and religious observances prohibited; in November 1990, Albania began allowing private religious practice
Languages: Albanian (official – derived from Tosk dialect), Greek, Vlach, Romani, Slavic dialects
Literacy: 98.7% — Male; 99.2%, Female; 98.3%
School Life Expectancy: 11 years
Discover Albania – Video