From: Alice Taylor
Albanian Government Says People Should Avoid Religious Gatherings as Part of Social Distancing

The Ministry of Health published an infographic on measures to be taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The infographic specifically advises avoiding places such as “religious gatherings”. It does not use any other examples of gatherings, just that of religious ones.

While Albania is a secular country, it has three main religions: Orthodox Christianity, Islam, and Catholicism. There are also Bektashi, Baha’i, Protestantism, and a small number of Jewish people in the country.

During the rule of communist dictator Enver Hoxha religion was outlawed. Many religious leaders, clergy, and believers were tried, tortured, and executed. Foreign Roman Catholic clergy members were expelled.

In addition to this, religious sites including churches, mosques, tekkes, monasteries and other sites were seized, closed, repurposed or destroyed. Members of the clergy were publicly humiliated and vilified and more than 200 were imprisoned. The Monastery of the Franciscan order in Shkoder was set on fire and four elderly monks were killed as a result. 

Co-founder of the Democratic Party, Genc Pollo tweeted that such an announcement “evokes dark memories of communist state atheism and the massacre of clergy and believers.”

He called for the removal of the notice with urgent effect.

Albania’s places of worship have been closed due to COVID-19. While the government did not force them to, a source within one church in Tirana told Exit that they were pressured into doing so, despite wishing to continue with social distancing measures. In addition to this, they have been excluded from the governments reopening phases and have not received any information on when they can open.