Albania

Vatican: Pope Francis Not Under Threat from Islamic State Militants

Pope Francis is scheduled to travel to Tirana, Albania. Creative Commons image by Catholic Church England and Wales/RNS.

Pope Francis faces no specific threat from Islamic State militants and will not be adding extra security measures on his one-day trip to Albania next week, the Vatican said Sept 15.

The Vatican’s chief spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said despite recent “worrying” events that had shocked the world, there was no specific threat to the 77-year-old pontiff as he prepared for his official visit to the majority Muslim country on Sept. 21.

Lombardi said Francis would use the same open-topped vehicle he uses to greet crowds in St. Peter’s Square when he travels to the Albanian capital, Tirana.

“There is no reason to change the pope’s itinerary,” Lombardi said. “We are obviously paying attention but there is no need for concern or a change to his program in Albania.”

Report from the Global Christian Forum in Indonesia: Day Four, Healing Memories

Albania was perhaps the most closed society in the world during the Cold War, with absolutely ruthless persecution of all religion. Churches were destroyed in every corner of that country. Clergy were eliminated. Worship was outlawed. And enforcement was brutal.

When Communism fell, and the country opened for the first time in decades, the Albanian church began a miraculous process of rebirth. We heard the moving story of the Albania Orthodox Church, rebuilding countless church structures, but even more importantly, restoring faith in the hearts of its people. I've known its leader, Archbishop Anastasios, from past encounters at the World Council of Churches, and he surely is a saint. The revival of religious faith in Albania and its compassionate service to those in need is a magnificent story of the church's witness, and the Spirit's power.

Cows for Peace

Heifer International came up with a unique solution to a sticky problem. In the 1997 Albanian civil war, more than 500,000 weapons were stolen from military depots. Now there is an excessive number of guns, light arms, and grenades hiding under the beds and in the barns of civilians. The Albanian army has promised the United Nations that it will find and destroy those weapons. Heifer International, known for its programs that deliver food- and income-producing animals and training to millions of poor families, offered to help the Albanians by suggesting a swap. For every three weapons turned in, a family will receive a pregnant Holstein dairy cow.

The "cows for peace" project is going great guns. Not only does it provide poor farming families with a basic, self-sustaining necessity, but it also avoids the political quagmire that comes with a "cash for weapons" exchange, which can lead to looting and encourage more theft in the future.

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Sojourners Magazine March-April 2002
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A Marshall Plan for the Balkans

As NATO governments begin the reconstruction of Kosovo, they should take lessons from the Marshall Plan that followed World War II. In the late 1940s the United States invested massively in rebuilding war-torn Europe, helping both allies and former enemies recover economically and become functioning democracies. The strategy was a success that laid the foundation for prosperity and cooperation and helped secure the peace in Western Europe for more than 50 years. No less an effort is needed now to bring lasting peace and security to Southeast Europe.

The present situation in Kosovo is more an armed truce than a genuine peace. As long as NATO troops remain, war between Serbs and Albanians can be prevented. But the underlying grievances that sparked the conflict have not been resolved. Similar conditions prevail in Bosnia, where approximately 35,000 troops prevent renewed carnage, but where Serbs, Croats, and Bosnian Muslims remain bitterly divided. Martin Luther King Jr. said that peace is more than the absence of war; it is the presence of justice. By that standard the Balkans are a long way from peace.

It is no accident that the Balkan wars have raged in the poorest parts of Europe. Conflicts over resources, jobs, and economic opportunity have been at the heart of the region’s troubles. Building a just peace will require addressing these issues and lifting the region out of relative poverty. The promise of economic assistance and integration into the European community can be offered as incentives to encourage human rights and multi-ethnic cooperation. The goal of U.S. and European strategy should be to create prosperous, democratic, open societies throughout the Balkans—to build communities where people trade rather than invade, where commerce, communication, and interdependence gradually break down the animosities that have so often fueled armed conflict in the region.

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