Albania is one of Europe’s smallest countries. It was known as Illyria in ancient times and was always being fought over and controlled by foreign nations. After more than four centuries of domination by the Ottoman Empire, Albania won its independence in 1912. However, it succumbed to Communist rule from 1944 to 1991. Communism gave way to an emerging democracy in 1991, but the political atmosphere was unstable. The Socialist Party was voted into power in 1997 and is currently leading the government.
The government of Albania is comprised of a prime minister, president, and parliament. There are two main ethnic groups that make up the population: Ghegs and Tosks.
The first evangelist to come to this region was Titus. The Apostle Paul wrote about his missionary efforts in Illyria in the New Testament. But in modern times, the Gospel has been slow to penetrate the people and culture of Albania. Christianity spread in the second century and continued through to the end of the Byzantine Empire, but Islam replaced it in the 15th century under Turkish rule.
The Protestant church had little impact on the people of Albania until the late 1800s when Gjerasim Qiriazi began to publicly preach the Gospel, start schools, and write and distribute Christian literature. Then in 1967, official atheism was declared and religion was outlawed, making Albania the most closed country in the world. When communism fell in 1991, there were zero churches and only three known believers. Today, there are 200 evangelical churches and 20,000 believers!
Assemblies of God missionaries first entered Albania in 1991. They found people hungry for truth and immediately began to proclaim the name of Jesus. Within one year, an international church was planted in Tirana, the capital city. Some years later, a civil uprising, followed by a war in neighboring Kosovo, gave Assemblies of God missionaries opportunity to minister to thousands of refugees and hurting people. The ministry in Albania has continued to expand with the establishment of more churches, the Albanian Assemblies of God national church movement, and a Bible school. The Assemblies of God reports the following statistics for Albania: twelve churches, seventeen church plants, 2,000 members and adherents, and three missionaries.
Today, Albania's population is 69.3 percent Muslim, 20 percent Orthodox, 10 percent Catholic, and 0.7 percent Protestant Evangelical.
Additional Facts About Albania
- Capital: Tirana
- Area: 11,100 square miles
- Population: 3.0 million
- Agriculture: corn, potatoes, sugar beets, and wheat
- Mining and Manufacturing: chromite, copper, petroleum, cement, fertilizers, and textiles