Albania had been once declared an atheist state which never happened… On the opposite though, ever since the fall of Communism in Europe the Christian faith has experienced dynamic and steady growth. Christianity in Albania claims apostolic roots since the Bible mentions a visit of Titus to Dalmatia, the province on the territory of today’s Albania (2 Tim 4:10).
From the 15th century to the 19th century, under the rule of the Turkish Ottoman Empire, the dominant religion became Islam. In 1817 the British and Foreign Bible Society made efforts to provide the Albanians with a New Testament in their own language. This led to the establishment of the Albanian Evangelistic Brotherhood which published the Bible in the Albanian Language and opened schools for children.
In 1944 Albania became a Communist state under the dictatorship of Enver Hoxha who ruled the country till 1985. The Communist regime attempted to eradicate the Christian faith by inflicting harsh restrictions on the nation. The ruthless persecution resulted in the imprisonment and executions of many religious leaders. In 1967 all religious buildings (about 2 thousand in total) were closed virtually overnight and Albania was pronounced an atheist state.
Albania regained independence in 1991 and ever since wide opened its doors to Christian missionaries. Currently, there are about 10 thousand evangelicals who are grouped in 190 local associations. The nation is comprised of: 60% Muslims, 20% Eastern Orthodox, 10% Roman Catholics and a significant number consider themselves nonreligious. The population of Albania counts about 3 million.
After the dark period of Communism many expatriate missionaries, including the Baptists, started writing a new spiritual chapter in the nation’s history. These missionaries together with indigenous leaders founded the Baptist Union of Albania in 2003. Missionary Antonio Barbosa is currently the union’s president and pastor Edmond Palucaj serves as the general secretary. There are 10 Baptist congregations in the union with a total membership of 250. The EBF has supported several church planters in their efforts to start new congregations.
Church Plant Irshek
A couple - Fatjon and Anisa came to the Christian faith 6 years ago during a summer camp that was organized by the Agape Baptist Church in Tirana while Toni Manelli led the congregation. After some time they started a Bible group and invited others. Later they developed a vision for Christian ministry in Irshek which is a Tirana suburb, being inhabited by about 25 thousand people and there is no other evangelical witness.
At first, social work was begun as the Irshek community had suffered from an earthquake 7 years ago. This has eventually opened a door for spiritual ministry. The mission team is now comprised of 12 persons including several missionaries from South Korea. There are ca. 50 children involved and church planters attempt to build relationships with their adult parents.
The mission team once a week organizes games for children and teaches them Christian songs as well as shares the Bible stories. The adults who bring their children often ask spiritual questions. The meetings are organized outdoors, so the challenge is in winter when the weather gets cold.
The real and urgent need for this work is to rent a hall or a building where the ministry could be advanced. The mission team would like to open a coffee shop for local people and a kindergarten for local children as well as a place for their ministry. This would significantly forward the mission work and help strengthen relationships with local people as well as reach out to the community. There is an appropriate facility in offer for €600 monthly but the lack of funds hinders to acceptance of this offer by Baptists.
The Baptist leaders in Albania are exceptionally mission-minded and radiate with positive energy. They are driven by a passionate vision that is indeed contagious to others. The nation enjoys the freedom of religion which provides an excellent opportunity for the expansion of God’s Kingdom in Albania.
Pray for the existing Baptist churches in Albania that they can grow in the knowledge of God and fulfill the Great Commission to reach the new generation of people.
Pray for the church plants that they can implement effective strategies in order to advance the Christian movement in Albania.
Pray that the Albanian nation may experience a significant spiritual revival.
EBF Mission Coordinator
Planting new churches together!
For the glory of God!