Christianity in Albania claims apostolic roots since the Bible mentions a visit of Titus to Dalmatia, the province on the territory of today’s Albania (2 Timothy 4:10).
From the 15th century to the 19th century, under the rule of the Turkish Ottoman Empire, the dominant religion became Islam.
In 1817, the British and Foreign Bible Society made efforts toward providing the Albanians with a New Testament in their own language.
These foreign efforts led to the establishment of the Albanian Evangelistic Brotherhood in 1892, which had three goals: to preach the gospel, to publish it and to open schools in the Albanian language.
In 1944, Albania became a Communist state under the leadership of Enver Hoxha who ruled the country until 1985. The Communist regime introduced harsh restrictions on both Christians and Muslims.
The ruthless persecution against Christians resulted in imprisonments or executions of many religious leaders.
In 1967, all religious buildings (about 2,000) were closed, and Albania was declared an atheist state.
In 1991, Albania regained independence and opened its doors to Christian missionaries. Currently, about 160 evangelical churches exist in the country.
The nation comprises 70 percent Muslims, 20 percent Eastern Orthodox, 10 percent Roman Catholics; the total number of Protestants is about 9,000. The whole population of Albania is about 3 million.
Albanian Baptists began in 1932 when Edwin and Dorothy Jacques, from the Unites States, began serving in the city of Korce in southeastern Albania. Thanks to their dedication, the gospel advanced and influenced many people.
After the dark period of communism, many missionaries, including Baptists, started writing a new spiritual chapter in the nation’s history.
These missionaries together with indigenous leaders founded the Baptist Union of Albania in 2003.
The current union president is Mondi Palucaj, and the general secretary is Genis Myrteza. There are eight Baptist congregations in the union.
Palucaj is a pastor of a congregation in northern Albania that was started in 1992 by a missionary from Brazil.
The church has about 50 members now, owns a building and develops a successful kindergarten ministry.
Myrteza pastors The Way of Hope, a Baptist church in Tirana, the capital of Albania and the country’s largest city; the church has its own facility. There are some missionaries from BMS World Mission involved, too. The congregation has a vision to start other congregations in Tirana.
A total of eight Baptist congregations are in Albania, some of which have buildings while others meet in public halls.
A new church in Izberisht was started in 2013 by Elton and Olta Manelli, with the help of The Way of Hope congregation, which is the oldest and largest Baptist congregation in Tirana even though it was planted only 22 years ago.
The mission work in Albania has been growing as the number of mature leaders and the number of church plants have been increasing.
This has resulted from a wise strategy of the union leaders who successfully build up the indigenous work and welcome the joined efforts of expats.
Information about the European Baptist Federation’s mission partnerships is available here.
Daniel Trusiewicz is mission partnerships coordinator at the European Baptist Federation. A version of this article first appeared on the EBF’s mission partnerships news page and is used with permission. You can follow EBF on Twitter @EBFNews.