Albania and the European Union

  • In NEWS
  • October 12, 2021
Albania and the European Union

Albania is one of several countries in official accession talks to join the European Union. EEA invited Pastor Ylli Doçi, President of the Albanian Evangelical Alliance – VUSH – to share his personal thoughts. What makes him proud to be Albanian? What are his hopes for how Albania might influence the EU and vice versa? How can we pray for Albanian Evangelicals?


In 1991, there were perhaps only 16 Albanians in the nation who could claim to be Evangelicals after the devastation of communism. 30 years later, we praise God that Evangelicals are in every city and VUSH is officially recognised as the 5th religious community in Albania. I have had the privilege of being President of VUSH since 2016 and also represent Evangelicals in the Interreligious Council of Albania since 2018.


What does it mean to be Albanian? I think it is about belonging to this unique people who speak our special language. Throughout history, our land has been a battlefield. We survived by keeping our home up in the mountains. But, we had to come down regularly to the valleys to engage in the life of the city dominated either by Greeks, Romans, Slavs or Muslim Turks. Albanians today are a small remnant of the Illyrians, made up of all the tribes inhabiting the broader region and who were assimilated through history as they came to live here.


This history has left a good legacy. I am proud of our sense of honour for the individual and allegiance to the group, of our hospitality and the inviolability of an oath made between individuals. Christianity came in the first century[1], Islam in the late 1400s. So Albanians have had centuries of relative peaceful co-existence between Christians and Muslims, including creating institutions of brotherhoods across the religious divide. The communist period was traumatic and has left its scars but our values remain. The family is still strong, despite new moralities that are pushed. Respect of human dignity, private property, women’s rights and equality of all persons, social harmony with religious tolerance, and liberal democracy with political pluralism, all these are deeply rooted.


We see Albania becoming a member of the EU as a very natural development. We belong to Europe because we share the European worldview of freedom and respect for the individual in a society defined by the rule of law, even if we have not always succeeded as a society in achieving our ideal.


When we are within the EU, and using my analogy of the mountain dwellers coming down to the city, Albanians hope to enter a well ordered city to be useful members of it, improving our lives and being contributors for good. We may pose some challenges for the EU’s strict bureaucrats but I hope we will bring new life. I think Albanians will be like fresh blood, a bit wild, but eventually beneficial for the whole of society.


I pray that Albania can help the EU to remember enduring truths about humanity, marriage, gender and family. I hope we will also serve as good reminders to our fellow Europeans of such values as hard work, upward mobility which is earned, respect of freedom and equality without prejudice but also without denying real differences between people, cultures or religions.


Albanians know very well how to live in harmony with others who believe differently from them in certain important respects such as religion. This is because they recognize first the person as belonging as an equal to the Albanian family, before they distinguish them as the “religious other”. This enables us to focus on the rules needed to live together harmoniously in the here and now, while reserving the thorny theological issues for discussion around the table at leisure. We debate with respect, speaking truth without hurting the other.


Of course, like any family, Albanians have their difficulties but I believe that we can bring wisdom to the rest of Europe about sharing the social space across religious and worldview divides, while not ignoring dangerous ideologies which could threaten full freedom of religion and expression.

This dynamic of harmonious coexistence has given fruit in the form of an Albanian Interreligious Council where religious communities, including Evangelicals, are officially represented as equals. I believe it can serve with one voice to uphold common moral and societal values, providing an important reference point for the nation as EU membership brings opportunities and challenges.


VUSH will naturally want to play its part in this joint moral reference point. Please pray for us, that our biblical influence will be strong. We especially want to strengthen and synchronise our efforts to better speak into public debates about the definition of the family and sexuality.


This October, we celebrate 30 years of re-birth of the Evangelical Church in Albania. We want to recognise God’s hand in all the miracles that have happened and pray for His blessing and empowering of the generation of younger Evangelicals for the new chapter to come.


Thank you for praying with us.


[1] Romans 15:19

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