By Peter Tase
There are some valid questions to answer in today’s Albanian society to further understand what’s happening in a region with a variety of religious faiths such as the Balkans.
Albania, one of the smallest countries of Europe, has always been considered a unique example of co-existence in terms of religion and culture. Past records show that independently from historic and political settings, Albanians showed a friendly behavior towards each other’s religious tendency. The relation of Albanian nation with religion has not been a constant one.
These matters mainly focus on the risks of Albanian society to revitalise religious conflict due to radicalization; the tendency of religion to integrate itself and the risk of clashes between democratic institutions and religious rule.
Analyzing behavior towards religion and religious behavior in today’s Albania, there are some main features coming out of the Albanian society and its relation to religion.
First, generally Albanians show a pragmatic behavior which is also related to religion. Their ultimate values are more materially oriented then spiritually oriented.
This mainly affects attitudes toward religion, as they influence attitudes of acceptance or rejection based on religious preferences, tendencies or spiritual attraction.
In the second place, it is necessary to emphasize Albanians’ tendency towards homogeneity which is reflected in their main core values as a society. Taking in consideration the variety of norms and values depending on social groups or sub-groups the individual is an essential part of it, when it comes to make generalizations, they tend to act unvaryingly towards religion, faith and diversity. The salient characteristic of Albania’s long period of the communist regime was the establishment of an equal society in all aspects, including expectations and an equal social class for all, causing tremendous consequences in the burgeoning of social standards and attitude to reinforce “the power of the people” which it turned out be “a responsibility of all.”
In trying to differentiate between instrumental and religious values as well cultural influences on them, even in historic arguments, there has been a distinction between Muslim believers and orthodox or catholic worshipers in their attitudes towards intellectual accomplishments and professional choices. The last two groups have historically been focused on their education and their scholarly work clearly testifies willingness for a greater flexibility and greater engagement in urbanization processes, an attitude which is entirely different from the firmness of Muslim population in the country in relation to the afore mentioned life aspects of Albanian society.
The religious heritage to the majority of Albanian society is less influential in differentiating alternatives and attitudes than the social status’ role. The social groups or subgroups belong to culture, age and profession, etc., represent variables which create a greater homogeneity in core values and cause differences in secondary values and related attitudes. This is a possible explanation of this greater tolerance Albanians show towards diverse cultural, religious and ethnic stereotypes.
Since late September, Albanian Prime Minister, Sali Berisha has chaired various meetings of the national committee in charge of coordinating the 100th anniversary of Albania’s independence, scheduled to commence on Nov. 28th, 2012.
Berisha called upon every committee member to improve the communication between government offices while arranging various historical events in which a special importance will be given to religious tolerance in Albania.
November 28th will be a historic date of festivities, not only in Albania but also for every Albanian community in Montenegro, Macedonia and Kosovo. Albania’s anniversary of statehood will revive the historical successes and blunders of the last 100 years, in addition to salient traditions in Religious coexistence and ecumenism.
According to Berisha,“now is the time to establish more active action teams that would better arrange the celebrations at every Albanian small town.”
The current process of preparations has consisted of many discussions derived from a significant historical legacy, which at times has been constructive and unproductive. Historical facts encourage Albanian people to better reflect and evaluate appropriately historic information that may have currently been altered.
For Mr. Berisha “the noteworthy historical controversies have been debated for a long time and thanks to these discussions [Albanians] have revealed the truth that has been ignored in many levels in the past. Debates in this small country of the Western Balkans are evolving in a constant course, their dynamic influence never ends, but religious tolerance and coexistence will never fade from the nations historical memory”
This is a perfect opportunity for the Albanian society and politicians to recognize Albania’s accomplishments and historic blunders of the past as well as to view the future with new hopes, aspirations and see Albaniabecome a full member of the European Union; a constant aspiration of Albanian politics for more than two decades.
Albania’s European Union Integration process has taken over two decades and the its government is making little progress on the vital electoral reform laws, consolidation of democratic institutions, ensuring theindependence of the court system from political pressure as well as the fight against corruption. Hopes remain high for Albania to join the European family when Tirana has fulfilled the necessary legislative recommendations and reforms.