There are over 109 million people living in the Philippines—that’s over 2½ times the population of California living in an area slightly larger than the…
In 2017, Children’s Hunger Fund launched a Mercy Network in Korce, a large city in southeast Albania.
Considering Albania’s turbulent history, the presence of any Christians in the country at all is a tremendous blessing.
A Brief History of Albania
The first people to live in what is now Albania are most likely the Illyrians, who lived in the Iron Age. The land was invaded by the Romans in 167 BC.
The land shifted hands several times before Albania became part of the Ottoman Empire in the 14th century. During almost 500 years of Ottoman rule, many Albanians converted to Islam.
In 1912, Albania gained its independence from Ottoman authority, but their freedom was short-lived. Italy invaded in 1939 and then Germany in 1943.
Communism in Albania
In 1944, communist forces took control of Albania and appointed Enver Hoxha, who led Albania until his death in 1985. Under Hoxha’s rule, Albania was completely cut off from the rest of the world. In 1967, religion of any kind was banned, making Albania the world’s first atheist state. Many religious buildings were destroyed, and anyone caught practicing religion could face up to ten years in jail.
Hoxha’s obsession with his own extreme line of communism even led him to break off ties with other communist powers around the world. In addition to being completely self-reliant, all means of production were under state control. After Hoxha’s death in 1985, Albania once again opened relations with other countries
Poverty in Albania
After Albania’s 45 years as a communist country came to an end in 1991, the economy shifted from a socialist to a capitalist market. Thanks to Albania’s abundance of natural resources such as oil, natural gas, and minerals, its economy continues to make improvements. It does, however, remain the fifth poorest country in Europe, with many of its people living in extreme poverty.
In rural Albania, employment in agriculture may be available to those with little to no education, but work may not be consistent. Many struggling farmers are unable to sustain their farms and have either left the country or moved to urban areas.
In urban Albania, the influx of people to the cities has led to the formation of slum communities. These areas lack adequate infrastructure and basic services, as the cities are unable to respond quickly enough to the rapidly growing urban population.
The Romani population of Albania, which is estimated at around 100,000 people, also faces poverty. Romani—often derogatively referred to as gypsies—predominantly live in Europe but can be found worldwide. Due to the discrimination that they face, many Romani refuse to register with their local government, making them ineligible for any type of social services. Without proper paperwork, such as birth certificates, many Roma children are not allowed to enroll in school. Those who do enroll are often treated unfairly, leading parents to keep their children home.
Across the country, families facing poverty may require their children to contribute to the family income by working or begging on the streets instead of attending school, continuing the cycle of poverty for future generations.
CHF Mercy Network
Since the fall of communism, the Christian movement has grown in Albania. The Evangelical Church of Korce—which was the first Christian church to have risen in Albania—has planted more churches throughout the country, and mercy ministry plays a big role in their church life.
The Evangelical Church of Korce was already ministering to children when the partnership with CHF began. There are currently 18 Mercy Network churches in and around the city of Korce who are engaged in mercy ministry.
In addition to the Food Pak program, our partners in Albania also run a day center for street children. These children—who are deliberately kept underfed and dirty by their parents so that people will be more likely to give them money when they beg—are given access to clean clothes, shower facilities, hot meals, tutoring, and a safe place to spend their days off the streets. The church will also reach out to these children’s parents, deliver Food Paks, and share the gospel.
In 2022, a second Mercy Network was launched in the capital city of Tirana. We are so thankful for the four churches that make up the Tirana Mercy Network and look forward to the expansion of this ministry into more communities.
We welcome your prayers as all 22 Mercy Network churches in Albania faithfully serve their communities with food and the hope of the gospel.