|Dr Berisha meets with leaders|
02 October 2012 Tirana, Albania [Julian Kastrati, tedNEWS] A delegation from the Adriatic Union Conference headed by its President, Pastor Branko Bistrovic, held a courtesy meeting with Albania’s Prime Minister, Prof Dr Sali Berisha. In this visit, Pr. Bistrovic was accompanied by Pr. Sretko Kuburic, AUC Executive Secretary, Dr Dragutin Matak, representing the Religious Liberty Association, Pr. Leo N. España, Albanian Mission (ALM) President, Pr. Julian Kastrati, ALM Executive Secretary, Pr. Sergio N. Borges, ALM Associate Treasurer as well as Dr Beatrice C. Kastrati, ADRA Albania Country Director.
In his opening address, Pr. Bistrovic transmitted to Prime Minister Berisha greetings on behalf of Dr Bertil Wiklander, Trans-European Division (TED) President, who visited Albania earlier this year to mark 20 years of officially organised Church presence in the former communist country. Pr Bistrovic then proceeded to give a brief presentation regarding the worldwide Seventh-day Adventist Church, its structure, mission and vision. Pr Bistrovic stressed that “the Church does not exist to serve itself, but rather to serve and address the needs of the local community,” thus reassuring Dr Berisha of the on-going commitment of the Church and ADRA towards the Albanian people, offering universal values through a holistic approach that has given Adventism a very positive image worldwide.
|Receiving a certificate of recognition from ALM and ADRA|
On behalf of the Religious Liberty Association, Dr Dragutin Matak commended the Prime Minister and the Albanian Government for the outstanding and exemplary level of religious liberty and the peaceful coexistence among religions in Albania. As he expressed his gratitude to the Adventist Church for its contribution towards religious liberty, on his part, Dr Berisha pointed out that “respect towards others’ religion is one of the most fundamental values of the Albanian civilisation.” Furthermore, Dr Berisha emphasised that “religious tolerance and co-existence has been passed on from one generation to the next, despite various attempts from occupiers to use Albania’s religious diversity as a tool of discordance, or from the former communist regime which tried to wipe religious faith of fron the national consciousness.”
After briefing the Prime Minister on the 20th Church Establishment Anniversary celebration, Pastor Leo España, President of the Church in Albania, highlighted the fact that Adventism has much older roots in Albanian soil, reaching as far as 100 years ago. Pr. España then shared briefly the touching story of Albania’s Adventist martyr of faith, Daniel Lewis, a pharmacist from Boston who returned to his native Albania in the 1930s to share the Advent message in the Land of Eagles. Following World War II and the instalment of a repressive communist regime, Daniel Lewis was later imprisoned, tortured and died in prison because of his Scripture-based religious beliefs, including keeping the Sabbath day holy.
|Courtesy Photo with PM Berisha|
Pr. España also briefly shared the story of one of Lewis’ Bible students, Meropi Gjika, who waited for over 4 decades to get baptised and return her tithes and offerings to the Lord. Evoking on Meropi’s last wish to have a church near central Tirana, Pr. España presented a letter of request to the Prime Minister, kindly appealing for the latter’s assistance on securing a special permission to build a multi-purpose community and evangelistic centre that would simultaneously house the Central Tirana Adventist congregation.
To the delight of everyone in the audience, the Prime Minister pledged his full support for this project and affirmed that such a church that caters for the spiritual, social and health needs of the community would be most welcome. In a wider context, Dr Berisha also expressed the support of the Albanian government on initiatives of the Adventist Church and ADRA in areas such as inter-faith dialogue, culture and social solidarity.
As tokens of appreciation, the AUC, ALM and ADRA Albania leaders at the close of the meeting presented the Prime Minister with a small gift from the TED President, a recently-published Thomson Bible in Albanian, as well as a plaque in recognition of Dr Berisha’s long-term, unique contribution to religious liberty and promotion of humanitarian and faith-based values for the Albanian people.