As impenetrable as its language, Albania has always been perceived as marginal. First a periphery of the Ottoman Empire, then cut off from the world in the night of the Communist regime, now it is queuing to join the European Union. It made a comeback for a few days, however, thanks to Pope Francis, showing that it can offer the world some valuable lessons.
[...] Against Scepticism
in the era of ISIS, there has spread such scepticism about interreligious relations that suspicions are immediately aroused when one hears expressions such as ‘peaceful cohesion’ being trumpeted about. At most, one is tempted to explain such cohesion by the fact that it is possible in places where religious practice is lukewarm i.e. where Muslims would not be true Muslims…. But Monsignor Mirdita Rrok Kola, Archbishop of Tirana-Durrës, reacts to the scepticism thus, “I can personally testify that there is a genuine exchange with those who are responsible for the Muslim community. What is more, you could see it in the participation of many Muslims during the Pope’s visit – this was a fruit of everyday life”.[...]
What Remains after the Persecution
To prove that relations between Christians and Muslims are truly good, Skënder Bruçai (a psychology graduate who is now the head of the Albanian Muslim Community) cites the common declaration against ISIS signed by the respective religious leaders and the various communities’ united, ongoing fight against practical atheism. Structured in local communities that elect their imams (who, in their turn, choose the mufti for the various regions), the Muslim community is primarily organizational in nature. “My task”, Bruçai explains, “is to help Muslims know and practice authentic Islam, which for us, historically, is an interweaving of the Hanafi school of law and Sufism”. Nevertheless, there exist mosques in the hands of Salafi groups, who train or host jihadists ready to leave for Syria. Bruçai is not yet forty. His predecessor, on the other hand, was very old: the intermediate generation was swept away by Enver Hoxha’s regime. A fate also suffered by the Bektashi and the Orthodox Christians. [...]
[This article is published in Oasis no. 20. To read all the contents buy a copy or subscribe]