Albania is a nation in Southeastern Europe that covers an area of 28,748 square km and has a population of about 3 million people. The country is a secular state, and therefore does not have an official religion. Albania's constitution provides for the freedom of religion, which gives every citizen the right to practice a religion of their choice. According to Albania's 2011 census, 58.79% of the population are Muslim, while Christians account for 16.92% of the population. Atheists and non-affiliated believers make up 2.5% and 5.49% of the population, respectively. 13.79% of the population preferred not to answer the question in the census related to religion. These census results raised certain controversies. In particular, the Albanian Orthodox Church refused to accept the results after claiming that a greater percentage of people adhered to its faith. Some officials of the Muslim community were also unhappy with the census data, as they believed that many Muslims were left out of the counting.
Islam has been practiced in Albania since the second half of the 9th century. The Arabs who raided parts of the region at that time introduced the religion in the area. Gradually, Islam grew in the country and was greatly patronized by rulers of the Ottoman Empire. Currently, Muslims live throughout Albania. Most of Albania’s Muslims are Sunnis, who account for 56.70% of the national population, while Bektashi Muslims account for only 2.09%. By 2008, Albania had 568 mosques and 70 bektashi tekkes.
Albania is considered one of the earliest seats of Christianity. Today, Roman Catholics account for 10.03% of Albania’s population, and are thus the biggest group of Christians in the country. Orthodox Christians and Evangelicals account for 6.75% and 0.14% of Albania’s population, respectively. Adherents of other Christian sects are also present in low numbers. The Catholics of Albania live primarily in northern parts of the country, while Orthodox Christians live in the southern parts. By 2008, 425 Orthodox churches and 694 Catholic churches had been established in Albania.
Religious Harmony in the Country
Albanians are known to be highly tolerant towards the religions of others, and therefore believers of various faiths peacefully co-exist in the country. Several surveys rank Albania as one of the world’s least religious nations, as only 39% of the population claim religion plays an important role in their lives. During its communist regime, when religious practices were banned in the country, Albania became the world’s first atheist state.