8. ALBANIAN FAITH COMMUNITIES

Enver Hoxha’s 41-year dictatorship locked the nation into subjugation, firstly following Marxist–Leninist dogma, then the Maoist ideology, and finally in the late 70’s Hoxha asserted independence from any ally or trading partner. In 1967, he declared the country the world’s first secular atheistic society, banning the practice of faith, demolishing churches, mosques and synagogues, executing priests and imams. Meeting to worship and pray risked death or brutal imprisonment.

Since the fall of communist regime in 1991 faith groups have re-emerged. The nation has distinct cultural elegances (not radical) to faith –  Muslim: 59%, Roman Catholic: 10%, Orthodox: 7%, other: 6% these figures are based on a 2011 census, and are much argued. The Roman Catholic Cathedral was first to be rebuilt, then the Orthodox Cathedral with its wonderful cultural centre underneath, and currently a new mosque is nearing completion which will accommodate 4,500. During the early years of emergence from communism many protestant evangelical churches brought aid and humanitarian support to the county, and now have established churches. The prayer is that the mix of faith groups will engage more and develop a more mutual dialogue.

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