e mërkurë, nëntor 14, 2007

Is there religious harmony in Shkoder?

Is there religious harmony in Shkoder?

I come from Scotland.
Glasgow is a divided city. Not Islam-Roman Catholic but Protestant-Catholic. There are 2 big football teams Celtic and Rangers. In general Celtic are supported by the Catholics and Rangers by the Protestants. On any “normal” day Glaswegians live together work together and drink together without any problem. But on match day they stand at opposite ends of the football ground shouting abuse at each other. Come Monday morning things have calmed down, although “bragging rights” are very important.
However, there is a general dislike of each other. One side will blame the problems on the school system of the other (i.e. they are uneducated). The other side will accuse the other of being “unwashed” and “bigoted”. They live together, they work together, they party together…but they don’t really like each other.
I was interested to read a recent comment from a Celtic supporter…” I am ethnically Catholic. I don’t believe in God but I still hate Rangers.”

Shkoder is roughly 50% Catholic 50 % Islam.
I wonder if Shkoder is a little similar to Glasgow?
Do we have “ethnic Catholics” and “ethnic muslims” in our town?

To answer the question “is there religious harmony?”we first must define what is religion.
This is important to understand.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines religion as...
1 a: the state of a religious "a nun in her 20th year of religion"
b (1): the service and worship of God or the supernatural
(2): commitment or devotion to religious faith or observance
2: a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices
3 archaic : scrupulous conformity : conscientiousness
4: a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith

Yes there are religious (truly religious) Roman Catholics and muslims in Shkoder...but the vast majority are not. Religion to the majority is the family they are born into. “We are muslims!” or “We are Catholics!” What that really means is that they profess belief in God, Jesus and the Catholic Church, or Allah and Mohammed...but they have little idea of the real teaching of their religion. However, it does mean that they “faithfully” celebrate holy days and act according to the traditions of the “religion” in respect of practices at birth, marriage, or death.

So to the question “is there religious harmony?”...I would have to say that question really means... “Is there social harmony?”. And to that I must answer “yes!”.
The 2 different cultures exist and function without too much difficulty. Although if you ask a young man that has fallen in love with a girl from the opposite religion...then they both will tell you that it is still a BIG difficulty. “Çifti i Lumtur” may be one of the best and funniest Albanian films, but it is no laughing matter to any young couple who find themselves in a similar situation!
Yet there are mixed marriages in Shkoder, and mixed marriages that don’t just work, but flourish and declare the “working together” of the 2 cultures.

They work together, drink coffee with each other, wish each other a happy Easter or Happy Ramazan…but in general they think they are “better” than the other group.( I use this description rather than the word “dislike” each other or the “hate” word used above by the Celtic supporter).
I have heard Catholics complain about the way muslims bring up their children…with the opinion that the muslim children are not at fault as the parents are “uneducated”. This does not mean “unschooled”, but rather that the way they are brought up is at a lower lever than Catholic families.
I have heard muslims comment on the Catholics and how they go over the top and spend too much money on their festivals. “harxhojnë shumë!, kanë luajt mendësh!”
Or else criticism that they eat pork. “ jane piste, hanë mishin e derrit!”
I have heard complaints from both about descrimination regarding school marks, or job applications due to their religion.

Is there a danger?
My answer would be that the greatest danger would be to underestimate the danger.
Yes, there is a danger. It only takes one madman to stir up trouble and the 2 communities could be at “war” with each other ( here I mean a war of words and not killing each other!) A couple of years ago a large cross erected on a hill near the village of Bushat was knocked down. There were objections by muslims about the plans to have the statue of Mother Theresa at the entrance to Shkoder. I foresee that as either/both religions become more “visable” in their outward expressions of their beliefs...so there will be more opposition.
However, in 1997 Albania rioted and the whole city appeared to be armed. There was shooting everywhere. Yet, in all the looting, destruction and killing...neither mosque nor church was damaged. Nor was there any sign of religious hate or religious killing. In fact I used to say that i felt safer in 1997 during the riots when there was no police presence than before! This was due to the fact that the whole neighbourhood ( I lived in “3 Heronjte” at that time) barricaded the end of the street and protected us from any danger. Nightwatchmen kept guard in the local bar just below my bedroom window, and at 2 a.m. they shot a couple of rounds of their automatic just to tell others that they were still guarding the area!

Will things change in the future?
Yes – but at the same time, you only need to walk down the street on a summer evening to see by their dress (or lack of it) that the young girls are far more influenced from Italian TV than the Qu’ran.
There are more younger men studying the Qu’ran and serious about it. Just go to the mosque on Friday and see.
It was encouraging to hear a Catholic priest refused to baptise some of the catechism class as their school behaviour was bad!

But if there are more young people being serious with their religious studies then I think we will face the “real” religious harmony question in a few years time.
Personally, I like to think that the religious studies will lead to open debate and discussion with theological based arguments, rather than widen any gulf of “dislike” and “disagreement”.

Maybe the wise man who said that the faith of Albanians is “Albanianism” was correct.
“Awake, Albania, it's time to rise
And bind yourselves with brotherly ties;
Look not to church or mosque for pietism,
The faith of Albanians is Albanianism! “
Pashko Vasa

Maybe there will always be a small group who are strong in their beliefs...but maybe Shkoder will prove that the real religion of Albanians is their national identity.

Of what i have seen, family and the opinion of the family, friends and neighbours seems to be far more important than anything that God or Allah says.

Time will tell, however, for now it appears that as long as both cultures are accomodated by the government and “bashkia” then both groups will be happy.

4 komente:

Albanian Blogger tha...

Dear Kolin,
thank you so much for this insightful post. I am glad that you wrote about this very important issue. My concern is the same over the reality of religious harmony or "tolerance" in Tirana as well. However, the number of different influences, especially secular ones has increased considerably and the Albanian culture and people as a whole are still experiencing a lot of flux in this whole religious and personal identity situation. My hope is that in the process we will not loose the values that make Albanian families strong and united as that is so foundational for everything else.

Anonim tha...

Dear Kolin,

Living in shkoder from 1995 as I see,you know very well that in this issue, the religous harmony, we are more civilizied than the rest of europe.Perhaps is the only one....unfortunately.
Yes, in Shkoder may be some "dislikes" as you say, but I think we will never have two football teams for each religous community as it happens in Glasgow.
Thats why I am proud to be shkodran and albanian in general.

God bless you!

Anonim tha...

Nice story you got here. I'd like to read something more about that topic. Thanx for giving this data.

Anonim tha...

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