July 13, 2010

The Miracle in Albania

July 12, 2010

by Maria C. Khoury, Ed. D.

I always try to count my blessings in life and I try to live by following God’s will but today I have had the most extraordinary life experience that I can only glorify God for answering my prayers of ten years. If you needed prayers answered, please hang in there because in God’s time, all of our prayers are heard and answered. I reassure you that this has been my experience as I have placed my life in God’s hands living in the Holy Land.

I have always admired and respected the amazing work of His Beatitude Anastasios Archbishop of Tirana, Duress and all Albania and today I have experienced the most beautiful liturgy in a language I did not understand in Tirana, Albania at the glorious Annunciation Cathedral where his Beatitude served with twelve other priests.

Archbishop Anastasios generously hosted a consultation at St. Vlash Theological Academy sponsored by the World Council of Churches with Dr. Fulata Lusungu Moyo, the Program Executive of Women in Church and Society bringing together twenty three participants from Africa, Asia, Europe, Middle East, North and South America. The archbishop’s inspirational words on the wounded-ness and the holistic healing in reviving the faith and hope of the members of the Autocephalous Orthodox Church of Albania in the last nineteen years offered an essential context for other deep reflections during the gathering. It is the second such WCC conference that I have personally attended dealing with Top of Form Orthodox Women Facing the Challenges & Ambivalences of the Post-Modern Societies.

What I personally view as the miracle in Albania is the fact that from the time of communism over 1600 churches where destroyed, damaged, used as storage centers during the period of great persecution; and after July 1991 when His Beatitude arrived for the ministry in Albania, he basically took a community that was dead and helped it reach its resurrection by immediately restoring and re-building 160 new churches, and educating and ordaining over 140 priests to serve the diverse ethnic communities while establishing 50 youth group centers. In a special session for the current conference, all of the participants felt that Archbishop Anastasios was the healer of Albania in his capacity to transfer the message of Christ to preach and to heal the deep wounds of the atheistic persecution. It is not possible to be in his presence and not feel you are in the presence of a living saint. He is truly a holy man. In his most humble manner he tries to explain that the first effort of the church was to simply exist and the deep wounds of ethnic identities in Albania continue to be healed in the last nineteen years as the Gospel is being preached.

The most meaningful message for me living in an area of high conflict among Jews, Christians and Muslims are the well known words of Archbishop Anastasios found in his books, videos, power point presentations stating “The oil of religion should never be used to inflame the fires of hatred but should be used to soothe and heal the wounds of others.” His personal philosophy complimented our consultation on wounded-ness and healing. The gathering was enriched not only by the presence of Orthodox men but also of other men and women from Christian traditions exploring the healing offered as a common gift of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

The three day conference closed with many recommendations to the World Council of Churches for follow up meetings and with the conclusion that Christian communities are called to give witness to the unity of men and women in common action for healing, promoting justice, peace, mutual understanding, and tolerance and above all love according to the needs of the wounded people in each concrete social context. My particular presentation was on the struggle and nightmare of the Palestinians to survive and keep their dignity and land with specific focus on the suffering Christian community.

Now, I am in need of your prayers to pass the Israeli security and return to my family.