Friday, 12 August 2016

God Among the Bunkers, by Chris Moorey

I have long had an interest in Albania. The Albanian civil war and the crisis in Kosovo both occurred when I was a teenager. When I lived in Worcester, I was friends with a chap who had served as an Evangelical missionary in Albania. In Albania people always remove their shoes in homes, a custom of which I very much approve. Albania is one of a handful of countries that I pray for every week. I normally pray for Albania on Mondays.

The title of this book is taken from the fact that the Communist dictator Enver Hoxha filled Albania with concrete bunkers as a security measure against invasion. Albania under Hoxha was the most repressive Communist regime in the world. In particular, Hoxha went far beyond any other Communist leader in his attempts to eradicate religious belief. Even North Korea has a show church to give a Potemkin illusion of religious freedom. In Albania, every vestige of religious practice was targeted by the state. This book provides a history of that persecution, demonstrating its horrors, but also demonstrating the survival of religious faith.

While the book emphasises the experiences of Orthodox Christians in Albania, it also has plenty of information about the persecution of Catholics and Muslims under Hoxha. This is appropriate, as uniquely, despite the division of its population into Orthodox, Catholics and Muslims, Albania has been surprisingly lacking in religious tensions. While Albanians may murder each other over tribal feuds, they are not nearly so inclined to kill each other over differing religious beliefs. The same tolerance has been extended in more recent years to the Evangelical groups and imported cults that thrived there after the end of Communism.

This is in many places a deeply saddening, as well as disturbing book. However, it is also very encouraging, showing the failure of Communism to eradicate the faith of so many Albanian people and the return of Albanians, especially young people to churches after Hoxha's fall.

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