10th anniversary of the Center for Interreligious Cooperation in Elbasan

By Fr. Stavri Cipi – Albania – November -December 2015

On 26 November 2015, at the “Skampa” Hotel in Elbasan, the 10th anniversary of the Interreligious Cooperation Center was commemorated. The event brought together senior representatives of local government: Mayor Mr. Qazim Sejdini, County Prefect, Mr. Arben Kamami, President of the Regional Council, Mr. Bukurosh Stafa, as well as other guests such as the Apostolic Nuncio, Mons. Romiro Ingles, Chairman of the Committee on Cults, Mr. Ilir Dizdari, and clergy from all the religious communities of Elbasan and numerous faithful. The Orthodox Autocephalous Church of Albania was represented by His Grace Anthony, Bishop of Kruje.

Professor of the University of Elbasan and historian, Mr. Roland Gjini gave a detailed summary of religious coexistence in the region of Elbasan throughout the centuries, bringing interesting examples of studies from foreign scholars, such as Georg Hahn, Margaret Hazllëk etc. He emphasized the tradition of Albanians being always together regardless of religion. Coordinator of the Interfaith Committee, Mr. Sokol Lulgjuraj, spoke about the work done during these 10 years, and focused on the challenges and tasks that confront this committee in the future. The representative of the Catholic community, Don Emilio Valente talked about the importance of the “veneration of Mary in the Qur’an” as a strong bridge between Islam and Christianity. Mr. Ergys Muzhaqi, a theologian from the Muslim community, referred to the lessons and common bridges to interfaith cooperation.

At this meeting, His Grace Anthony elaborated on the theme, “Shared values that encourage cooperation.” After giving a brief retrospective history on the factors which led to the formation of religious pluralism in the country, he focused on the positive spirit which exists between religious communities, as well as its persistence today in interfaith cooperation, as a must for the present processes and needs. Also, the Bishop of Kruje raised some of the concerns that the religious communities still face today regarding their property restitution and compensation, as well as cases where state authorities did not act with appropriate care and responsibility in relation to some Orthodox cultural objects.

The Bektashi Community Representative, Baba Ardit Selmani, highlighted the value of interfaith cooperation. He strongly emphasized that our religions share things that unite us and do not separate us. The conference ended with a greeting from the President of the Council of Muftiate of Elbasan, Mr. Arben Ramkaj, who thanked all the representatives, and taking advantage of the occasion, congratulated the celebrants on the independence and liberation of the country.