Profile Source: GAAPNet: Updated original Bethany people profile
Introduction / History
The Albanians are believed to be descendants of the Illyrians, who were the original inhabitants of the western Balkan Peninsula. In the sixth century, migrating Slavs began to settle on Illyrian territory and pushed the Illyrians into what is present-day Albania.
The Albanians fall into two major groups, the Tosk and the Gheg, according to which Albanian dialect they speak. The two dialects differ slightly in vocabulary and pronunciation. In the 1950's, it was decided that the Tosk dialect would be used in all Albanian publications.
The climate of southern Albania resembles that of southern Italy. The Tosk Albanian who live there are known to be friendly and talkative. They dominate politics and many other spheres of society.
What are Their Lives Like?
Prior to the changes introduced by the Communist regime in the 1940's, the Albanians were a tribal people who lived in extended family units called fis. The fis had many old traditions, such as the vendettas, or "blood feuds," which often lasted for several generations. For protection during these feuds, families lived in fortified stone buildings called kulas. The ground floor of the kula was built with small slits rather than windows, while the upper floor had windows that could be closed.
Albania is a country with many isolated areas. Over the centuries, this produced a wide variety of regional lifestyles and settlement patterns. However, when the Communist regime began in 1944, the traditional lifestyles began to change drastically. Communist political authorities believed that the way to achieve national unity was to abolish differences of tribe, religion, and even dress. Huge community farms were established, and education became mandatory. Large apartment complexes were built, and today, more than a third of Albania's population live in cities. Almost half of the work force are women. Albanian products include: textiles and clothing, food products, petroleum, metals, lumber, and chemicals. The increasing industrial population and the introduction of mandatory education have, in fact, eliminated many regional differences.
The collapse of the Communist regime in 1990 brought on numerous traumatic and rapid changes in Albania, leaving the people with an identity crisis. The people were shocked to discover that they had been reduced to poverty. Hurt, angry, and confused, they are now struggling to find their identity in a country that is considered to be Europe's poorest and least developed.
What are Their Beliefs?
The Apostle Andrew obeyed Jesus' command in Matthew 28:19 by going to Illyricum (ancient Albania.) A small remnant of Christians remains. But centuries ago, many Albanians were converted to Islam by the Ottoman Turks. They practiced a type of folk Islam, which embraced occult and superstitious practices such as praying to the dead, seeking cures for sickness, and praying for protection from spirits and curses.
In 1967, Albania declared itself as "the world's first atheistic state," closing its borders to any influence from the outside world. Many of the Tosk would call themselves Orthodox; however, most of their religious practices have been nominal and superficial.
What are Their Needs?
Since 1990, the crime rate in Albania has soared. Albania's economy is very unstable. Strikes, especially in the mines, are frequent. The Albanian currency is worthless, and the rate of unemployment is extremely high. Albania is considered one of the poorest countries in all of Europe.
Muslims from the Middle East are now attempting to re-evangelize Albania by sending missionaries. Today, the Muslims, along with the Catholics of northern Albania and the Orthodox of southern Albania, are pressing for restrictive legislation to keep out other religions that are considered non-Albanian.
Recently, over one million Korans have been distributed, and within three years time, 900 mosques were built or reopened. Thousands of dollars were given by Muslim countries to encourage young men to study Islam in other countries.
The Albanian Tosk need to know that hope and security can be found not in a religion - but in the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.
* Ask the Lord to raise up church planters within Albania who will see their responsibility to share the Good News and disciple the Tosk.
* Pray that legislation restricting the preaching of the Gospel will not be passed in Albania.
* Pray that the Muslim influence would not win the hearts and minds of the Tosk.
* Ask the Lord to raise up long-term laborers to go into Albania and share the Good News.
* Pray that Bibles will be effectively distributed throughout Albania and have a strong spiritual impact on the people.
* Pray for the effectiveness of the Jesus film in Albania.
* Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will begin breaking up the soil through worship and intercession.
* Ask the Lord to raise up strong local churches among the Tosk Albanians.