Albanian identity: without Christian-phobia and Islam-phobia

By Dr. Lisen Bashkurti

In our times debates rooted on religious phobias are among the most aggressive scenarios, as it appears that hyenas from medieval times are rising over the bright renaissance of modern and post-modern cultures.  In this debate there are contradictory approaches.  There is a Christian-phobia, Islam-phobia, Anti-Semitism and all sorts of religious phobias that point poisonous arrows to each other that embody prejudice and hatred for one another.

In this world filled by ghosts of phobias that are rooted on religious ideology there are only a handful of nations, people and cultures that are dominated by a harmonious coexistence of religious values and there are even fewer countries, people and cultures that have built their identity based on inter-religious harmony.  Albanian people and culture is one of those nations. Simply Albanian Identify.

For centuries, Albanian identity has been a matter of studies, debates and discussions.  Regardless of their different approaches and in some cases contradictory between them, the most convincing and overwhelming approach is that it is an autochthonous nation and a very authentic nation to its substance.

The autochthony of Albanians is connected with their unchanged geographical territories that have always been shrunk due to historical and great geopolitical reasons imposed from outside Albania. The authenticity of Albanians is connected to predominant characteristics that distinguish them from other nations across its borders.

The core of authenticity are the symbiotic elements of people – geography – language – culture, as a result such a thesis is gaining more and more influence. In other words the identity of Albanians is ‘Albanianism.’

Time after time even inside our elitist environments the debate on Albanian identity emerges from a myriad of directions. Moreover famous writers such as Ismail Kadare and Rexhep Qosja have debated and continue to defend their respective theories that come from rough directions. Mainly they both have a different approach on the confessions inside Albanian identity.

Kadare defends his theory that Islamic assimilation of Albanians was violent, enforced, as a result been very damaging and not in unison with Albanian communities. Kadare has defended Christian approach and mainly the anti-Islam mindset within Albanian identity.

Qosja advocates his theory that Islamic waves upon Albanians have been naturally accepted by them.  As a result, according to Qosja the Islamic assimilation has made a difference among Albanians and the south Slavs in the region. Such a difference, the Islamic assimilation, according to Qosja has defended Albanian communities as they have for centuries confronted directly the barbarian Slavs in the region, let alone damaging Albanian interests.

Both approaches have elements of truth, rationale and usefulness for Albanian identity. On the other hand both approaches have unstable details, they are not rational and surge from different viewpoints, they are even harmful to Albanian identity today and tomorrow.

Moreover lately there has been a third tendency, in order to revive anti Semitic symptoms.  These anti-Semitic symptoms are supported by certain political channels that are against Soros.  Although anti-Semitism is historically a foreign nuance to Albanian identity, nonetheless the political tendency of anti-Soros could become an anti-Semitic wave and expand its influence in other societal spheres over time.

Inside the framework of this analysis on cultural diplomacy there is not enough space, there is neither audience nor a possibility to discuss it in depth. Therefore we will touch upon only one aspect, where limits of identity debates provoke clashes with dangerous consequences to the identity itself.

Here we are referring to various lengthy approaches on the multi-religious Christian-Islamic identity in Albania.  The contradicting debates bring into clashes the Christian and Islamic existence inside Albanian identity. These debates while being confronted with the two religious sides within Albanian existence, with or without a purpose we make these two harmonious sides to become confrontational, exceptional and not in consistence with today’s identity.

Confrontations, lack of tolerance and exceptionality produce a PHOBIA instead of harmony. Phobias among various identities create fear, hatred and animosity among nations.

With this in mind the phobias INSIDE an IDENTITY create fear, hatred within one nation.  Phobias created from unprincipled debates inside an identity are a serious threat to the core of existence of this identity.

In the case of peaceful geopolitical and geo-cultural situations these exhaustive debates create a relative concern without reaching threatening crises.  On the other hand, when such a discussion is unraveling in a geopolitical and geo-cultural international setting where the situation is deteriorating, these debates exacerbate the internal discussions even worse and that is mainly affected by international confrontations rooted on different religious beliefs.

Today’s international crises are being instigated by religious phobias. Christian phobia in the Islamic world and Islam phobia in the Christian world, as well as the resurface of Anti-Semitic syndromes, all of these, if they are not deterred on time, they may cause the destruction of a coexistence foundation among civilizations at a global level while provoking tensions, conflicts and wars while defending them with theological arguments.

Under these unprecedented international conditions, the most vulnerable identities are those embodied by multi-religious values, which are part of phobia discussions against Christians or against Islam.

While potentially embodying a great danger from inter-religious phobias of the world, multi-religious identities such as the case of Albania, ought to be careful.  Inter-religious identities are very sensitive to outside influences.  The secret to maintain unity and cohesion inside Albanian multi-religious setting is based on the willingness to completely avoid PHOBIAS rooted in RELIGION.

In the reality of Albanian identity there is no ground for Christian phobia, Islam phobia, or anti-Semitism and no other religious phobias. Meanwhile on certain individuals, on particular groups there is a growing tendency of phobias based on religion.  This phobic attitude is being inspired from outside, from individuals, groups and marginalized groups from east and west. Regional environment, with an admirable skill and covered by a veil of political motivations, is inspiring even more such an extremist attitude.

Albanian identity is “albanianism”, which has accepted, for many reasons and by different means, Christianity and Islam. Inside Albanian society these two religions are living under a Biblical-Koran harmony that is admirable.

The highest embodiment of such a multi-religious Albanian identity is the Albanian Saint, Mother Theresa.  She was by blood Albanian, Christian by spiritual conviction, but her life was dedicated to serve a global multi-religious charity to the benefit of all humanity.

Translation from Albanian Language by Peter M. Tase

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Lisen Bashkurti

Dr. Lisen Bashkurti is the President of Albanian Diplomatic Academy in Albania. Prof. Bashkurti has been a Chancellor in a number of Universities in the Balkan Peninsula. He is also the Global Vice President of Sun Moon University in South Korea. As a distinguished scholar of international relations he has received many international awards including: A “Gold Medal” for his research on US-Albanian Partnership,” “Four Silver Medals” for his great contribution during his service as Albania’s Ambassador to Hungary (1992-1993); appointed as “Peace Ambassador” from the International Peace Foundation, United Nations (2009). He is the author of more than 18 books that cover a range of issues including: International Affairs, Negotiations and Conflict Resolution, International Diplomacy, Multilateral Diplomacy and Diplomatic History. He is an honorary professor in many prestigious European Universities and an honorary fellow to a number of prominent International Institutions.

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