Albania and the gospel – a current appraisal

Albania and the gospel – a current appraisal
Paul Davies Director of Albanian Evangelical Mission.
07 February, 2023 6 min read

Let’s get a few facts straight. The majority of Albanians don’t live in Albania, and they probably never have. The boundaries of the modern state, established in 1912, were not designed to include all those who identify as Albanian, whether through language or wider cultural factors.

Montenegro, North Macedonia, Greece, Turkey, and Italy are all home to substantial Albanian minorities, while in Kosovo they are clearly the majority, so the two-and-a-half million or so who remain in the homeland only make up part of the Albanian story. But it’s in the homeland that we can most easily trace a heart-warming story of God’s grace.

Following 500 years of Ottoman rule (during which most Albanians were forced to convert to Islam), there was a move of God’s Spirit, especially in the southeast. However, such encouraging developments were cut short by World War 2, which was immediately followed by the highly repressive regime of Enver Hoxha, effectively silencing the gospel for nearly fifty years.

It’s what happened next that is such an encouragement to all who care about sharing the good news of Jesus. 1991 saw the start of what can only be described as an ‘awakening’. A people who had been brain-washed with party propaganda (especially their teenage offspring) would respond to the Word in extraordinary numbers and with an enthusiasm almost lost in the West.

Albania today

What of Albania today? Shaun Thompson – who has been a missionary in Albania since October 1992 – recently wrote a report on the situation after thirty years of gospel freedom. Warning against an ‘overly nostalgic’ view and with a seasoned eye on the material and worldly appeal of becoming attached to anything Western, Shaun states bluntly that ‘it is no surprise that many who professed faith, including some that were very active in church, were never truly converted’.

But he is quick to counter his own caution: ‘Recognising all of this shouldn’t take anything away from the miracle of grace demonstrated by lives dedicated to Christ, especially of those who have been following the gospel for the last 30 years.’

Recognising that Shaun is inclined towards a balanced appraisal of Albanian church life and witness today, it’s encouraging to hear that ‘there are still people getting converted. Not in large numbers, but right across the country the Spirit is at work. And you don’t have to be from a particular Christian stable to know that this – the new birth – is the greatest of miracles. I sometimes remind my fellow labourers of this important truth, so that they don’t grow discouraged with the ones and twos.’

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