Reaching the Nations

Macedonia

By David Stewart and Matt Martinich

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Geography

Area: 25,713 square km.  Landlocked in Southeastern Europe, Macedonia borders Bulgaria, Greece, Albania, Kosovo, and Serbia.  Most the terrain is mountainous.  The Vardar River runs through the center of the country and three large lakes line the border with Albania and Greece.  Climate consists of dry, warm summers and cold, snowy winters.  Earthquakes are natural hazards and air pollution is an environmental issue.  Macedonia is divided into 84 administrative municipalities. 

Population: 2,072,086 (July 2010)       

Annual Growth Rate: 0.257% (2010)    

Fertility Rate: 1.58 children born per woman (2010)   

Life Expectancy: 72.4 male, 77.64 female (2010) 

Peoples

Macedonian: 64.2%

Albanian: 25.2%

Turkish: 3.9%

Roma: 2.7%

Serb: 1.8%

Other: 2.2%

Languages: Macedonian (66.5%), Albanian (25.1%), Turkish (3.5%), Roma (1.9%), Serbian (1.2%), other (1.8%).  Macedonian and Albanian are national or official languages.  Only Macedonian has over one million speakers (1.33 million). 

Literacy: 96.1% (2002)

History

Due to its location near Asia Minor, present-day Macedonia experienced a wide array of influences from regional powers over the past millennia.  Many of these cultural traditions have been adopted into local culture.  The Western Roman Empire controlled the region until coming under the rule of the Byzantine Empire in the 6th century.  Slavs began populating the area during this period.  The Ottoman Empire took possession of the region from the 15th century until 1912.  During the Balkan Wars and World War I, Macedonia was divided between Greece, Serbia, and Bulgaria until incorporating into the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes which later became Yugoslavia.  Macedonia peacefully won independence from Yugoslavia in 1991 as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.  Poor relations with Greece resulted shortly thereafter due to the new nation's desire to adopt the name Macedonia which Greeks regard as a Hellenic name.  Formal relations between the two nations began in 1995 after Greece lifted a 20-month trade embargo.  In 1999, Macedonia accommodated hundreds of thousands of Kosovar refugees.  The large Albanian minority began an insurgency in 2001 as it felt politically and economically marginalized.  Greater rights have been secured for minority groups in the past decade and greater economic growth and stability have occurred. 

Culture 

Past civilizations and empires have influenced modern culture, particularly the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires.  Fresco paintings and traditional music characterize historical art and entertainment.  Cuisine draws from Mediterranean and Middle Eastern sources.  Handball is the most popular sport.  Cigarette consumption rates rank among the highest worldwide whereas alcohol consumption rates are moderate.  

Economy

GDP per capita: $9,000 (2009) [19.4% of US]

Human Development Index: 0.817

Corruption Index: 3.8

Macedonia was the least economically developed of newly independent former-Yugoslav states in the early 1990s.  The Greek embargo, loss of federal funding from Belgrade, and Macedonia's landlocked position delayed economic growth and regional integration.  In the past 15 years, Macedonia has become more integrated with surrounding nations, but remains sensitive to global and regional economic changes.  Macedonia's small population, close proximity to Kosovo, and recent internal instability due to Albanian insurgencies has discouraged greater foreign investment.  The recent global financial crisis has also hurt the economy.  Services employ 52% of the workforce and produce 58% of the GDP whereas industry accounts for 29% of the workforce and GDP.  Agriculture employs 19% of the workforce and produces 12% of the GDP.  Primary crops include grapes, vegetables, tobacco, and fruit.  Food processing, textiles, chemicals, and metallurgy are the largest industries.  Primary trade partners include Serbia, Germany, Greece, and Italy. 

Corruption has remained a major issue which is present in most areas of society.  The government has stepped up the fight on corruption due to its aspirations for European Union membership.  Bribery in customs and law enforcement has been a major issue. 

Faiths

Christian: 65%

Muslim: 33%

Other/unspecified: 2%

Christians

Denominations  Members  Congregations

Macedonian Orthodox  1,330,279

Catholic  20,000  

Jehovah's Witnesses   1,325  20

Seventh Day Adventists  588  17

Latter-Day Saints  less than 50  1

Religion

Religious affiliation is highly correlated by ethnicity as virtually all Macedonians are Macedonian Orthodox and almost all Albanians are Muslim.   Other religious primary include Roman Catholics, Protestants, and Jews.[1]  Most the population does not regularly attend religious services. 

Religious Freedom

Persecution Index:

The constitution and the law protect religious freedom which is generally upheld by the government.  Persecution and religious discrimination by government or individuals is not tolerated.  There is no official religion but five religious groups are mentioned in the constitution.   Religious groups must register with the government to function as legal entities.  Foreigners conducting missionary work or religious activities must gain approval from the State Commission for Relations with Religious Communities and Groups to receive a visa.  Foreign religious workers must be invited in writing by representatives from a registered religious group.  Religious education is offered in public schools.  Some religious groups have not received legal status after applying for registration.[2]

Largest Cities

Urban: 67%

Skopje, Kumanovo, Bitola, Prilep, Tetovo, Veles, Ohrid, Gostivar, Stip, Strumica.

Cities listed in bold have no LDS congregation. 

One of the ten largest cities has a congregation.  51% of the national population lives in the 10 largest cities.

LDS History

Macedonia and Albania served as the primary staging points for much of the Church's humanitarian response to the Kosovo conflict in 1999.[3]  In 2000, Macedonia was assigned to the Europe East Area.  In 2009, Elder D. Todd Christofferson visited Macedonia and met with a e small number of members and individuals interested in the Church living in the area.  At the time, the only known Macedonian citizens who were Latter-day Saints consisted of a family of four.  In 2009, the Church did not have an official presence.[4]  Macedonia was assigned to the Slovenia Ljubljana Mission for the 1990s and 2000s, but no missionary work occurred during this period.  In May 2010, Macedonia was placed under the supervision of the Europe Area Presidency. 

Membership Growth

LDS Membership: less than 50 (2009)

With the exception of one Macedonian family, membership consists of foreigners temporarily living in the country.   

Congregational Growth

Branches: 1

In May 2010, the Church created an administrative branch for Macedonia under the direction of the Europe Area Presidency.  Prior to this time, a group met for Sunday meetings which reported to the Slovenia Ljubljana Mission.

Activity and Retention

No convert baptisms appear to have occurred in Macedonia.  Activity rates appear to be high among known membership.

Language Materials

Languages with LDS Scripture: Albanian, Serbian, Turkish

The Church has only translated the sacrament prayers and a basic unit guidebook into Macedonian.  All LDS scriptures are available in Albanian.  Only the Book of Mormon is available in Serbian.  Many unit, temple, priesthood, Relief Society, Sunday School, young women, primary, missionary, and family history materials are available in Albanian and Serbian.  Several CES manuals are available in Albanian. 

Meetinghouses

Church meetings likely occur in the homes of members. 

Humanitarian and Development Work

With the exception of emergency aid provided in the past to Kosovar refugees, the Church has yet to conduct humanitarian or development work in Macedonia. 

 

Opportunities, Challenges and Prospects

Religious Freedom

Laws and government policies have supported religious freedom in Macedonia and created a favorable environment for a future official Church presence.  The Church remains unregistered with the government and consequently its activities are severely limited.  Visa regulations regarding foreign religious workers have likely contributed to the lack of an official Church presence. No missionaries are assigned to Macedonia as only registered religious groups may invite foreign religious workers to receive a visa to work in the country. 

Cultural Issues

The strong ethnic identity of Macedonians to the Macedonian Orthodox Church and Albanians to Islam is a major cultural obstacle which will likely reduce receptivity to the Church.  Due to the strong influence of traditional religions, joining a Church regarded as non-traditional and foreign may result in converts facing ostracism and ridicule from their families and communities.  High cigarette consumption rates create challenges for many future investigators who face challenges completely ending their smoking addictions.  High smoking rates may reduce the receptivity of the Church due to its teachings against tobacco use.  Efforts among ethnic Albanians may be the most productive for the Church as Albanians in neighboring Albania have demonstrated the greatest receptivity to LDS mission outreach among ethnic groups in Southeastern Europe.

National Outreach

The Church's tiny membership appears concentrated in Skopje, where the only Church meetings are held in a private setting.  Mission outreach remains limited to those who have personal associations and contacts with members living in the country.  A third of the national population resides in the Skopje area.  Future mission outreach will most likely focus on Skopje before expanding to other large cities. 

Distance from mission headquarters in Ljubljana and a lack of Church members have been partially responsible for the country remaining almost totally unreached today.  The Slovenia Ljubljana Mission previously administered to all the nations of the former Yugoslavia, many of which relied heavily on foreign missionaries to fill local leadership and keep members active.  Some of these nations such as Bosnia, Montenegro, and Kosovo remain without mission outreach for similar reasons.  Countries in the mission which have an official presence have missionaries assigned to only a few of the largest cities.  Efforts to open additional mission outreach centers in these nations have likely contributed to the lack of a Church presence in Macedonia and other unreached nations in the Balkans today.  Due to the large Albanian minority, Macedonia may one day come under the jurisdiction of the Albania Tirana Mission.

The Church does not have a country Internet website for Macedonia or Macedonian language materials online.  Developing materials online may assist in initial efforts to find individuals interested in learning about the Church and provide accurate information concerning the Church's beliefs and practices.

Member Activity and Convert Retention

Once LDS missionary activity commences in Macedonia, new converts will likely face pressure from family and friends to return to their previous beliefs and practices due to strong religious ties to ethnicity.  Societal pressures may reduce convert retention rates. 

Ethnic Issues and Integration

Past conflict between Macedonians and Albanians may impact the integration of members and investigators from these two ethnic groups into the same congregations.  Once a large enough active membership base in developed, language-specific congregations will most likely be the best solution to minimize ethnic conflicts and miscommunications between Albanian and Macedonian converts.  As of yet, Church membership remains too small to have had these issues occur.

Language Issues

No proselytizing materials have been translated into Macedonian, which is spoken by two-thirds of the population.  Macedonian is mutually intelligible with Bulgarian, a language with significant church resources which is taught at the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah.  Albanian may also be useful in reaching the substantial Albanian minority in view of the high receptivity Albanians have demonstrated for the Church over the past two decades.  However, the concentration of ethnic Albanians in the west of the country near the Albanian border and remote from the capital of Skopje may limit the utility of Albanian language for mission outreach until additional congregations are organized in this region.  Most ethnic minorities have an ample supply of Church materials in their native languages, but future mission outreach will likely not occur in areas where these languages are most commonly spoken for many years following formal establishment of the Church. 

Missionary Service

No full-time missionaries have served from Macedonia.  Full-time missionaries have never been assigned. 

Leadership

In 2010, President Kopischke of the Europe Area Presidency was listed as the branch president of the administrative branch for Macedonia.  With only one native family in 2009, the Church currently has nearly non-existent local leadership capabilities.  Foreign members temporarily living in the country will likely serve in leadership positions and providing mentoring and assistance to local members and new converts.  

Temple

Macedonia is not assigned to a temple district, but members most likely attend the Frankfurt Germany Temple or Bern Switzerland Temple.  No organized temple trips have occurred.  Long distance and travel expenses require significant sacrifice for members to attend the temple.  Prospects for a temple closer to Macedonia appear unlikely in the foreseeable future.

Comparative Growth

Macedonia remains one of the only European nations which does not have an official Church presence.  Other nations with over half a million inhabitants without an official Church presence with include Bosnia, Montenegro, and Kosovo.  In May 2010, the Church organized administrative branches - a new category of congregation which facilitates tracking and assisting Church members in nations without an official Church presence - in each of these nations.  Among European nations without an official Church presence, Macedonia and Kosovo appear to be the only nations with several native members. 

Many proselytism-oriented Christian faiths have a presence in Macedonia and constitute a small minority.  These groups have struggled to reach across cultural divides and achieve greater membership growth.  Seventh Day Adventists and Jehovah's Witnesses experience slow membership growth rates, although both groups have 17-20 congregations throughout the country. 

Future Prospects

The creation of an administrative branch in 2010 and transfer of jurisdiction to the Europe Area Presidency may indicate increased interest among area leaders in locating any members in Macedonia and taking steps for a more formal church presence, yet the lack of affiliation with any full-time mission and the lack of formal registration indicate that assignment of full-time missionaries is not imminent.   However Macedonia continues to lack even a small native member base for missionaries to build upon which will likely delay noticeable membership growth for many years to come.  It is possible that a senior missionary couple may be placed to coordinate humanitarian efforts and strengthen the local church in the medium-term future.


[1]  "Macedonia," International Religious Freedom Report 2009, 26 October 2009.  http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2009/127323.htm

[2]  "Macedonia," International Religious Freedom Report 2009, 26 October 2009.  http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2009/127323.htm

[3]  "Church continues sending aid to refugees of Kosovo," LDS Church News, 8 May 1999.  http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/35723/Church-continues-sending-aid-to-refugees-of-Kosovo.html

[4]  Mattox, Elder Raymond P.  "Members are good citizens in Albania," LDS Church News, 20 June 2009.  http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/57493/Members-are-good-citizens-in-Albania.html