"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Religion in Albania

Albania has long struck me as a place that has not been studied as much as it deserves. Its Orthodox Church underwent terrible suffering in the communist period, and has struggled a great deal since then. But the country also has a significant Muslim population. In my forthcoming book, Eastern Christian Encounters with Islam, I specifically included a chapter on Albania to capture something of Orthodox-Muslim relations there, which have also been treated in a recent book by Cecilie Endresen, Is the Albanian's Religion Really 'Albanianism'?: Religion and Nation according to Muslim and Christian Leaders in Albania (Harrassowitz Verlag, 2013), 288pp.

About this book we are told:
For over a century, Albanians have been urged to view religious differences as unimportant. But are they? By conducting an unique set of interviews with representatives of the country's high-ranking clerics, Cecile Endresen tries to answer this question. The clerics speak of an interplay between nation and religion in the their own symbolic universes and expound on such themes as salvation, religious tolerance, historical developments, theological differences, and politics. While embracing national unity and religious tolerance as an overriding ethos, they nonetheless manifest a certain religious rivalry and a sense of unjust treatment. As such, they appear to contradict their own claims; at the same time, they are proud to be Albanian and intent on upholding national unity. Their perception of what it means to be "Albanian" is invariably related to the question of religious differences and inter-religious relations. Endresen's study investigates religion in multi-religious, post-atheist Albania by highlighting the fluidity and the extreme complexity of relations between nation and religion in Albania - compounded by the effects of global politics, local traditions, religious doctrine, personal experience, regional history, national myths, Communist propaganda, and conspiracy theories.

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