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Development of the Protestant church amongst Albanians

 

  • The Albanian Protestantism traces back in year 1818, when the first publications done by the Bible Society see light, with its author Dr. Vangjel Meksi.

  • British and Foreign Bible Society, a protestant committee for the Ottoman Empire, Alexander Thomson, American missionaries, as well as many Albanian figures are the key factors that made possible to giving birth of the protestant church amongst Albanians. A. Thomson was the one who mostly loved the Albanians during the National Awakening (1860-1896). A Reformation of a sort, only entered the Balkans after the Cyrinea War 1856; when the Ottomans are forced to give in. Albania was the last country of the entire Ottoman Empire to embrace some reformation ideas. It is year 1873 when the first American missionaries visit Manastir. They rented a house in the Qiriazi family neighborhood. It is widely known that the first Albanian to convert to Protestantism were Nikolla and Dhimitër of Manastir in year 1876. One year later Gjerasim Qiriazi also becomes a Christian. By year 1882, however, the Albanian Evangelical Church family grew into 36 believers. Consequently, the first Albanian protestant church of the modern times was formed in Masastir. This year for the first time there was worship conducted, as well as prayer and sermons were delivered in the Albanian language, where as an foreign historian says may be this is the first of this king perhaps in 1000 years of the Illyrian lands.

  • In 1890, when Gjersaim Qiriazi is ordained as “preacher” – evangelist among the Albanian people, by the American College in Somakov, the second church among Albanians is opened in Korça. The fisrt church services are conducted in the facility of the first Albanian school. Two years later follows the formation of the first national society within Albania named “Evangelical Brotherhood”. Its Program and Statute is made of eight clauses. Clause one declared: “The purpose of the Evangelical Brotherhood is spreading the Gospel in the Albanian language and developing the Albanian literature”. Same year, “The Brotherhood” decided to publish its organ “The Letter of the Brotherhood”. The head of these evangelical tasks was Gjerasim Qiriazi (1859-1894). Hence, Gj. Qiriazi is the father of the Albanian Protestant Church.

  • The protestant movement amongst Albanians has a tradition of 187 years, and surely it is not a latter day “sect”. No other church, religion, faith or belief among Albanians was more closely connected to the national cause then the protestant church. The entire protestant community in Albania was heavily involved in opening schools in the Albanian language; to publish books in the Albanian language, to make Albanian a liturgical language; to help the motherland; to be Albanians. There are over 100 various documents in Great Britain, America, Austria, Turkey, and Albania that support these facts. It is not a coincidence that Gj. Qiriazi chose the southern Albania to propagate Protestantism, where as he lived in the north, and he is the only romantic writer that visited Kosova (Prishtina in 1884). Greek clerics and their supporters in Albania and the Greek patriarchate were persevering before the Grand Porte to ban this new religion. They argued that since Qiriazi has started preaching, our religion in Albania is declining.

  • Protestant leaders: Vangjel Meksi, Grigor Gjirokastri, Panajot Kapitari,  Naum Veqilharxhi, Koto Hoxhi, Nikollë Naço, Gjerasim Qiriazi, Gjergj Qiriazi, Grigor Cilka, Petro Nini Laurasi, K. Kristoforidhi, Thanas Sina, Kristo Shuli, Sevasti Qiriazi etj.

  • Most of the Albanian romantic writers that supported, sympathized with and admired the Albanian protestant movement are: Elena Gjika, Asdreni, Konica, Noli, Naim Frashëri and many more. Naim was the one who has supported the protestant movement, and in his meeting with Gjerasim, he insisted that the Latin writing is used in their publications.