Religious leaders in Albania have pledged to co-operate in improving conditions in the country, which was declared the world’s first fully atheist state and pronounced “cleansed of religion” in 1967 by its then-Communist rulers.a?
“After rebuilding our religious communities, we have entered a new phase of challenges,” the leaders of the country’s main faiths said in a declaration signed recently in the presence of Albania’s Socialist prime minister, Fatos Nano. “These require us to strengthen efforts to promote traditionally good relations and co-operation among ourselves, while also enhancing the role of our communities as important institutions in our society.”a?a?
The document was signed by the head of Albania’s Orthodox church, Archbishop Anastasios Yanulatos, and the Roman Catholic archbishop of Tirana-Durres, Rrok Mirdita. It was also signed by Muslim leaders Selim Muca and Reshat Bardhi.a?
Henry Veldkamp, a Roman Catholic spokesman, said that religious leaders had been preparing the document in the hope of avoiding entanglement in “bloody conflicts”‘ such as those in nearby Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo.a?a?
a?An estimated 70 per cent of Albania’s 3.5 million people are Muslim. Orthodox Christians are estimated at 20 per cent of Albania’s population, and Roman Catholics at 10 per cent.