Thursday, April 19, 2007

Albania becoming more religious

The Chicago Tribute has an article about religion becoming more widespread in Albania.

Albania finds religion after decades of atheism

The Catholic cathedral that communists turned into a basketball arena for two decades is now busier than ever, drawing more than 2,000 people to a single Sunday mass. An ornate Albanian Orthodox church with three grand, peach-colored domes held popular midnight candlelit processions during the recent Easter season. Earlier, the latest of more than 50 mosques in the area opened with fanfare and a call to prayer.

In a country that once officially outlawed God, religion is back, but in a different way than before the long experiment in godlessness. Many Albanians have resumed spiritual practices with a faith strengthened by the years of suppression. At the same time, new practices and beliefs are being planted by foreign missionaries and money, making this tiny Adriatic country a remarkable example of the globalization of religion.

While I find it a good thing that people are free to practice religon, I find it troubling that foreigners are moving in and changing the religious landscape of Albania. Such foreign influence has a tendency to be fundamentalist in nature, and it seems that this might also be the case in Albania.
Given that the biggest religious group in Albania seems to be Muslims, I think most people can see why this might be a problem (I should add here, that I consider fundamentalists of other religions just as problematic, but Muslim fundamentalists are the one group who are mostly in the news these days).

Thankfully there seems to be a long history of inter-religious tolerance in Albania.

But there is concern about funding from Muslim extremist groups. Many people also say they worry that foreign influence is introducing conservative or radical thinking in other religions as well, at odds with Albania's history as a moderate, multifaith society.

For example, several large crosses erected in the hills outside Shkoder have created tensions, and at least one has been cut down. Many Muslims said they thought Christians from abroad might have put up the crosses, because the custom here -- long before the communists intervened -- was to be more discreet with religious symbols so they would not offend people of other faiths.

"I think it is a good idea to keep religious symbols inside," said Ndricim Sulejmani, the mufti of Shkoder.

Hopefully the moderate voices win out, and Albania becomes a shining example of how inter-faith relationship can work (even including atheists).

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

<< Home