The World Council of Churches (WCC) general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit has expressed concern at the methodology and results of the Albania Census 2011. He has raised questions in regard to the reliability of the process which, he said, has implications for the rights of religious minorities and religious freedoms guaranteed in the country’s constitution.
Tveit expressed this concern in letters issued at the beginning of May to the WCC president Archbishop Anastasios of Tirana and Durres, Orthodox primate of Albania, to Prof. Dr Heiner Bielefeldt, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, and to the Albanian government.
The latest official report of the Albanian Institute of Statistics (INSTAT) regarding the religious identity of the population in the 2011 national census concludes that Orthodox Christians in Albania make up 6.75% of the population and that the overall number of Christians has been drastically reduced from 31% to 17%.
Following these results, the Orthodox Church of Albania distributed a questionnaire regarding the census to Orthodox participants at liturgies in Tirana, Durres, Berat, Korca, Vlore and other cities. The results of this survey indicate the possibility of serious irregularities in the methodology and final results of the government’s data.
Tveit recalled the important role of religious communities in collective efforts to rebuild the country after the hardships of the previous regime. He said that such actions can undermine the existence of Christian communities and the unimpeded practice of religious freedom in the country.
Tveit called on the Albanian government to exert the utmost efforts, in accordance with national legislation and in conformity with international human rights standards and norms, in order to guarantee the full protection and promotion of religious freedom in the country for Christians and followers of all other faiths.