The question of "religious freedom in Albania" has always intrigued me because it has to do with the culture of my country of origin. Noting a lack of information and studies on the subject, I therefore decided to investigate the current situation of relations between the different religious communities present in the country, the relationship with the Albanian State over the years and fully understand the real reasons for religious disinterest. by the Albanian government.
An Albanian poet and intellectual, Pashko Vasa (1825-1892), wrote: "Don't look at churches and mosques, the religion of the Albanians is albanism" 1, which then became the motto of Albania, representing its secular and nationalist spirit. This is a consequence of the numerous attempts to unite Albania during the Ottoman occupation, while religion was used to divide the country into fractions. To understand the current religious situation in Albania it is necessary to recall the history of this country of the last century.
Albania conquered independence in the 1912 after having been part of the Ottoman Empire for almost four and a half centuries. During this very long period, a large part of the population converted to Islam due to obligation or economic-social advantages. In fact, historians have referred to various factors to explain the conversions that took place in Albania, including the desire to escape the heavy tax burdens imposed by the Ottomans against non-Muslims, the geographical position of Albania on the border between the Eastern Christian Church and Western and the lack of assimilation of the Albanian population with non-Muslim neighbors. The prolonged submission, from the Ottoman conquest, had the effect not only of causing far-reaching migratory phenomena, serious devastation and serious crises but also that of emphasizing the relationship between nation and religion.
On the one hand, therefore, there was a strong identification between the aspiration for personal freedom from foreign oppression and national independence supported by liberation struggles. Religious movements on their part assumed religious identity as the basis of national identity. The dignity of man identified with the dignity of the believer and his moral conscience finds its foundation in the theological contents of the religions, of the Catholic, Orthodox and Islamic present in Albania. Unlike other nineteenth-century Balkan states that had a state religion, the establishment of the independent Albanian state established that there was no official religion in Albania. This reflects the composition and the multi-religious character of the population formed over the centuries, but full religious freedom was guaranteed to all religious denominations.
During the period of the Monarchic Republic of King Zog the state maintained towards the religious communities the favorable political line that had characterized the first half of the Twenties. A policy of nationalizing religion followed, encouraging and supporting the political and administrative independence of the various religions in Albania, with respect to any foreign influence. Through this policy of support for religious communities, the state gained that desired support. Of all the religious communities, only the Catholic Church maintained its spiritual and administrative dependence on the Holy See which was represented in Albania by some apostolic delegates of foreign nationality. The Albanian Orthodox Church separated from the Synod of the Orthodox Church by becoming an independent church and proclaiming its "autocephaly". In these years also the Muslim Community felt the need to give life to a religious and social reform, which led to the official separation from the Caliphate of Constantinople and the adoption of the Albanian language in religious rites and in the translation of the Koran. The "Law on religious communities" in the 1929 included among other things the mandatory requirement of Albanian nationality for denominational personnel and the prohibition for religious communities to receive donations if they exceed the limits set by law. Only with regard to the Catholic Church the decree of the 1929 was not applied with rigor. The latter gave the state control over religious communities by subjecting the administration of property, churches, mosques and monasteries to state control. In this period it is estimated that the 70,5% of the population was Muslim and otherwise formed by Orthodox and Catholic Christians. Catholics were positioned in the north of the country and were seen by the King as a particular problem. Further encouragement of the King's policy was his policy towards the Jews remembered as the "golden age of the Jews". The reason why all the Jews were saved in Albania was first of all for the isolation of which he enjoyed this country, in a European context, but above all thanks to the Albanian culture based on a moral code called Kanun and in particular on one of his parts called "Besa" (word of honor, loyalty), which considers an imperative duty to defend life human of anyone, even at the cost of their own safety.
The Kanun code, which in various aspects still determines the Albanian culture, prescribes a series of rules of behavior which, during the successive foreign invasions in Albania, represented the identity of the Albanian people. After the victory of communism in the 1945, the Albanians were initially theoretically free to profess their faith. But the strong push to educate them to accept and understand socialist ideology was aimed at the destruction of customs and old patriarchal and conservative traditions. Thus it was that religion had a final blow in the 1967 with the prohibition of all religious practices, which made Albania the first atheist state in the world. The struggle against the religious faith was increased, considered an expression of the prejudice in virtue of which the man submitted to superstitious practices considered as a dangerous instrument for the hegemony of the party.
The government adopted a series of new laws among the 1949-1951, to complete the process of submission to religion. The 20 July of the 1951 the Catholic Church was nationalized with the disclosure of its links with the Holy See and its direct submission to the authority of the State. The various ideological stages of this increasingly harsh and repressive process, which led to the killing of numerous religious , priests, faithful and the detention of entire families in concentration camps until the early 1980s.
The Constitution of the 1976 belongs to a phase of break with the previous religious history of Albania. It involved the entry into force of an illegality regime for religion and religious communities. Not only was no legitimate subjectivity recognized, but the severe treatment of the state's enemy organizations was applied. Many religious buildings were transformed into youth cultural centers. From the social point of view it determined a dramatic and violent repression, the more inhuman the more the resistance multiplied. From the juridical point of view it constituted a unicum in the panorama of the systems of relations between Churches and State in the regimes of the communist dictatorship, which gave to posterity, among other things, a need for repression not always useful for the development of a country it must not forget its own history and that of its institutions. A gradual revival of religious practice, which involved the restoration and reconstruction of churches and mosques, was only after the collapse of the one-party regime in the 1991. A new era for religious communities opened in Albania, beginning to have to rebuild religious life from scratch. Throughout Albania, the rich emigrants of the diaspora began to finance the construction of new mosques in their own villages of origin, in addition many foreign states have paid aid and sent experts for the construction and restoration of religious buildings. The various Albanian religious communities have received moral, technical and financial support from their respective religious communities from abroad, to rehabilitate places of worship and redevelop the
Clergy and religious personnel, to their liturgical duties.
Of the three main religious groups, Muslims and Catholics marked the highest degree of progress with regard to the normalization of the situation. The prestige of the Catholic Church was raised in addition to aid from the Vatican also by the well-known figure of Albanian origin, loved also by the various believers is the Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta (Anjeza Gonxhe Bojaxhiu her real name). The work done by agencies related to this, such as Caritas and Catholic Aid Services, was also helpful.
1. PASHKO VASA, O moj Shqipni, Paris, 1880, p.3
This article was originally published on 17 February 2011
Follow Albania News on Google News