Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Albanians Get Religion Back

For years, Albania was the communist country that did the most to stamp out religion. All religious practices were banned; all religious buildings were either converted into secular facilities or torn down. But with the end of communism, religion is coming back. From the Washington Post:
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 is readying for Easter celebrations and popular midnight candlelit processions. And a few days ago, 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 a wave of foreign missionaries and money, making this tiny Adriatic country a remarkable example of the globalization of religion.

Prior to the communist era, Albania had a long history of being a multi-faith culture where Christian and Muslims got along fine. The biggest danger now comes from fundamentalist Christians and Muslim missionaries who preach intolerance.

No comments: