The Pope visited Albania yesterday, Sunday 21st of September 2014.
It was an emotional visit for many, catholic and muslims alike, as he was seen by Albanians as a blessing to their country and its continuous efforts for improvement and an homage to its long suffering people.
Also very importantly the Pope’s visit has turned Albania into a positive example abroad and an inspiration for other countries. Albania’s portrayal by the media abroad, under a positive light is amazing on many fronts:
– it is so unusual as the opposite negative image is often aired, of a country crippled by corruption and organised crime. So hopefully images and stereotypes will change and ordinary citizens will be able to remember a positive fact about Albania.
– it will be inspiring for others abroad and hopefully show that it is possible to have different religions co-exist harmoniously – especially in the current efforts to counteract the violence and extremism shown by ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Currently 3 religions co-exist peacefully in Albania, muslim, catholic and orthodox. The key to this is perhaps a moderate level of belief, not taken to extremes which allows for the acceptance of other forms of belief.
– it will be inspiring for Albanians themselves who have very little trust in their politicians and institutions. A blessing from the Pope can give people that touch of magic or supra-natural belief that things will get better for them.
– it will genuinely improve Albanians self-image and confidence as they can refer to an important collective event that enhanced them as people.
– it is a recognition of Albania’s hundreds of martyrs who died or were persecuted by the communist regime when Albania became the first atheist country in the world to officially ban religions. The communist dictator Enver Hoxha took the idea that “religion is the opium of the people” to an extreme and waged a war against religion, killing many priests and imams, and transforming many churches and mosques into cinemas, warehouses etc.
– it will help the collective psyche to accept the communist past and its horrible crimes better and reognise the pain suffered by its many victims. There are still people in Albania today who praise the dictator Enver Hoxha as the leader and the saviour of the nation!! ( I don’t know in which world they live but they need to wake up and listen to the victims’ side of history).
While watching the various photos and videos posted online by friends and media, I felt many times emotional (almost weeping but that’s probably due to the early-motherhood hormones) and mostly proud of my little country, who has indeed suffered a lot and has not had a very smooth history.
It is up to people to change their history and I hope the Pope’s visit will have given my fellow Albanians more courage and hope to tackle the problems and issues they face (which are many, unemployment, lack of opportunities, fleeing of the youth to other countries looking for better opportunities, poor health system, corruption, etc, etc).
The Telegraphs article
is quite nice and gives a few interesting facts about Albania. Do have a read.
Some beautiful photos were taken during the visit
Do also have a look.
Let’s finish with a blessing, God (or the Pope) bless Albania.