– Area: 28,748 sq. km. (slightly larger than Maryland).
– Major cities: Capital–Tirana (700,000). Others–Durres (400,000), Shkoder (81,000), Vlore (72,000).
– Terrain: Situated in the south-western region of the Balkan Peninsula, Albania is predominantly mountainous but flat along its coastline with the Adriatic Sea.
– Climate: Mild temperate–cool, wet winters; dry, hot summers.
– Population (June 2002 Institute of Statistics est.): 3,429, 000.
– Growth rate (2001 est.): -0.88%.
– Ethnic groups (2004 Foreign Ministry and Institute of Statistics est.): Albanian 98.6%, Greeks 1.17% (Note: The 1989 census, the last official census to record ethnic data, listed the ethnic Greek population at 2%; estimates by the Greek community itself place the number as high as 10%.), others 0.23% (Vlachs, Roma, Serbs, Montenegrins, Macedonians, Egyptians, and Bulgarians).
– Religions: Muslim (Sunni and Bektashi) 70%, Albanian Orthodox 20%, and Roman Catholic 10%. (Greek Orthodox percentages would conform to the percentage of the ethnic Greek population).
– Official language: Albanian.
– Health (2001 est.): Life expectancy–males 69.01 years; females 74.87 years. Infant mortality rate–39.99 deaths per 1,000 live births.
– Type: Parliamentary democracy.
– Constitution: Adopted by popular referendum November 28, 1998.
– Independence: November 28, 1912 (from the Ottoman Empire).
– Branches: Executive–President (chief of state), Prime Minister (head of government), Council of Ministers (cabinet). Legislative–Unicameral People’s Assembly or Kuvendi Popullor–140 seats (100 members elected by direct popular vote; 40 by proportional vote; all serve 4-year terms). Judicial–Constitutional Court, Court of Cassation, multiple district and appeals courts.
A Short History of Christianity in Albania
Christianity in Albania came as a result of the Jewish dispersion spoken of in Acts 8:1-4. The Apostle Paul preached the Gospel as far as Illyricum or modern Albania (Rom 15:19). After the division of the Roman Empire in 395, Albania became a part of the Byzantine Empire, and when the final schism occurred in 1054 between the Roman and Eastern churches, the Christians in southern Albania came under the jurisdiction of the patriarch of Constantinople. Those in the north came under the purview of the papacy in Rome. This arrangement prevailed until the Ottoman invasions of the 14th century when the Islamic faith was introduced. Forced, mass conversions of the Orthodox Christians occurred between the 17th and 19th centuries. At the end of the II World War, 70 % of the population was Muslim, 20 % Eastern Orthodox, and 10 % Roman Catholic.
After II World War the Stalinist Dictator, Hoxha, considered religion a divisive force and undertook an active campaign against religious institutions. In 1945 he confiscated the property of religious institutions, and in 1946 all foreign Roman Catholic priests, monks, and nuns were expelled. The rest of the clergy were tried, tortured, and executed. In 1949 the law required that religious communities be sanctioned by and in total submission to the state. The campaign against religion peaked in the 1960s, inspired by China’s Cultural Revolution. Hoxha called for an aggressive cultural and educational struggle against ‘religious superstition’ and assigned the antireligious mission to Albanian students. By May of 1967, religious institutions had been forced to relinquish all 2,169 churches, mosques, cloisters, and shrines in Albania.
By God’s providence, in December 1990 the ban on religious observance was officially lifted, and in 1997 freedom of religion became a constitutional right. Now Albania is free to worship the Triune God. However, 50 years of aggressive atheistic propaganda has impacted Albanian society. While 60% of society claims to be atheist, the rest are only nominal Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox or Muslim believers. People are suspicious of missionaries or religious groups. Evangelical Christianity is very young, only 10 years old, and out-numbered at 0.2 % of the population. Believers lack Christian maturity and education and ministers are untrained. Congregations are without facilities or the means to purchase them. Yet, evangelicals remain very faithful to the basics of the faith, diligent in carrying out the Great Commission, and very enthusiastic for the future of the Albanian Church and the nation. The task ahead is overwhelming, but our faithful God is bigger than all the obstacles, and He is in the business of building His Church in the country of Albania.
Islamic Pressure in Albania
– Albania had been a Muslim nation prior to World War II due to the Ottoman invasion of 1468. Islamic conversion had been enforced under penalty of death.
– Albania eventually expelled the Turks, but hundreds of years of Islamic indoctrination had become embedded in the Albanian culture. Today, most Albanians classify themselves as Islamic by default since their ancestors were Muslims. Consequently, they do not have the fanatic and violent bent of their aggressive Middle Eastern counterparts.
– Yet, since 1991 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.
– Thousands of Albanians were given scholarships to study Islamic theology abroad.
– The government secretly joined the World Muslim League and the Organization of the Islamic Conference.
– A number of training schools and Al Qaeda cells were discovered operating in the country after 9/11.
Did you know that…
– The Albanian language, as one of the original 9 Indo-European languages, is one of Europe’s oldest languages, not derived from any other language. The other 8 Indo-European languages are Armenian, Balto-Slavic, Germanic, Hellenic, Indian, Iranian, Italic, and Keltic!
– In 2000 BC the Illyrians, from whom the Albanians are direct descendents, held vast territories covering all of the western Balkans, approximately the territories of today’s Albania, northern Greece, and former Yugoslavia!
– The name Albania is derived from the ancient Illyrian tribe called the Albanoi who inhabited the provinces of what is known today as Durres and Dibra in 200 AD!
– The translator of the Bible into Vulgate, St. Jerome, was Albanian
– The earliest known king of the Illyrians was named “Hyllus” who died in 1225 BC. His name remains in the Albanian language today as “yll” meaning “star.”
– Albania contributed several emperors to the Roman Empire – Diocletian, Julian, Probus, Claudius Probus, Constantine the Great, and one of its most famous emperors, Justinian I!
– The Byzantine Emperor, Anastasius (491-518 AD), was an Albanian who was a native of an Albanian coastal city, Durres!
– The Grand Viziers who ruled the Ottoman Empire during the entire 17th century, were all Albanians and came from just one family named Koprulu! Indeed, some 26 Grand Viziers or Prime Ministers of Albanian blood directed the affairs of the Ottoman Empire since the 1500s!
– Alexander the Great received from his father (Philip II) and probably from his mother (Olymbia), Illyrian, or Albanian, blood!
– Mother Theresa was Albanian- her real name was Agnes Bojaxhiu. “Bojaxhiu” in the Albanian language means “painter!”
– Pray for our safety, encouragement, strength, boldness, sanctification, wisdom, humbleness, and sensitivity. Pray for protection from the Government, from the growing Islamic pressure in the land, from the growing pressure of the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Church, from the ordinary criminals, but mostly from all spiritual assaults of Satan and his dominions.
– Pray in advance for all future contacts in Albania, for salvation of the lost souls, for the assurance, steadiness, strong conviction, sanctification and preservation in the Lord of all the converts with which God will bless this ministry.
– Pray for the national leadership of the Presbyterian Church in Albania.
– Pray for the establishment of a Presbyterian denomination in the country of Albania along with its training institutions, that it may be zealous to reach out to the lost and be committed to a Christian world-view and national reformation.
Each established parish congregation in Albania will need a permanent place to worship God, to minister to the poor and the needy in their parish, and to reach out to the parish community. Please give toward this end. Give toward a church-owned publishing ministry in order to provide useful resources for pastors, elders, and laymen.
Mission to Albania is looking for sessions and presbyteries to adopt this ministry and support it in prayer, financially and in manpower. This ministry is seeking ordained men (Teaching Elders, Ruling Elders, Deacons, and Campus workers – we would love be joined by zealous and gifted campus minister(s) to work at the State University of Tirana and/or Durres) that would join us in a long-term commitment.