Reaching the Nations

Kosovo

By David Stewart and Matt Martinich

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KosovoGeography

Area: 10,887 square km.  Landlocked in the Balkans, Kosovo is a small nation which borders Serbia, Macedonia, Albania, and Montenegro.  Terrain consist of a flat, elevated basin and mountains subject to a continental climate creating cold, snowy winters and hot, dry summers.  Kosovo is divided into 30 administrative municipalities.  The government has approved the creation of an additional 10 municipalities in the near future. 

 

Population: 1,804,838 (July 2009)       

Annual Growth Rate: 1.3% (1983)[1]    

Fertility Rate: N/A   

Life Expectancy: N/A

 

Peoples

Albanian: 88%

Serbs: 7%

Other: 5%

 

Albanians form the majority in most areas.  Serbs are concentrated in extreme northern Kosovo and in some larger cities but have decreased in numbers over the past decade following the Kosovo War in the late 1990s.  Other ethnic groups include Bosnians, Gorani, Roma, Turks, Ashkali, and Egyptians. 

 

Languages: Albanian (88%), Serbian (7%), other (5%).  Albanian and Serbian are the official languages.  Only Albanian has over one million speakers (1.6 million).   

Literacy: 87.5% (2007)

 

History

Serbs began to settle Kosovo in the seventh century but did not incorporate the region into the Serbian Empire until the thirteenth century.  Serbia built many important Orthodox churches and monasteries in Kosovo, further deepening the Serbian legacy and claim to the region.  The Ottoman Empire annexed Kosovo in 1389 and retained control until 1912.  By the end of the nineteenth century, Albanians became the largest ethnic group as a result of immigration to the area from elsewhere in the Ottoman Empire.  Serbia and later Yugoslavia administered Kosovo for the remainder of the twentieth century and granted greater autonomy in 1974.  Albanian nationalism increased in the 1980s and strained relations with Yugoslavia.  A separatist movement became to take shape following Slobadan Milosevic and the Serbian government decision to revoke Kosovo’s autonomous status by first taking non-violent opposition and later forming the Kosovo Liberation Army.  Serbians began an aggressive, brutal campaign against Albanians in Kosovo through ethnic cleansing.  Approximately 800,000 fled the country and many died in the conflict.  NATO led a three month military campaign against Serbian forces and the United Nations established the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo.  Negotiations between Serbian and Kosovo authorities failed in the 2000s and resulted in a formal declaration of independence in February 2008.  As of May 2010, over 60 countries recognized Kosovo as a sovereign nation but Serbia, Russia, China, India, and many nations in Latin America, Africa, Eastern Europe, and Asia do not recognize Kosovo independence.  In July 2010, the World Court supported Kosovo's declaration of independence in determining that this declaration did not violate international law.

 

Culture 

Kosovo shares many cultural similarities with Albania as most of the population is Albanian.  Traditions and cultural practices often differ by city or town.  Family plays a major role in society.  Music is important to many and consists of a wide range of genres such as folk music using traditional Albanian instruments and modern music genres. 

 

Economy

GDP per capita: $2,500 (2007) [5.3% of US]

Human Development Index: N/A

Corruption Index: N/A

War, political instability, and isolation have prevented greater economic growth and modernization as Kosovo is Europe’s poorest nation.  Remittances from citizens of Kosovo living in Central Europe and elsewhere form an important part of the economy.  More than 40% of the population is unemployed, which fuels illegal activity and corruption.  35% of the population lives below the poverty line.  Due to poor living conditions, many immigrate to more prosperous nations.  Rich mineral deposits are underutilized due to lack of investment and equipment.  As many live in small towns and rural areas, agriculture is an important sector of the economy and produces wheat, corn, and potatoes.  Mining is the primary industry, exploiting nickel, lead, zinc, and magnesium deposits. 

 

Faiths

Muslim: 88%

Christian: 12%

 

Christians

Denominations  Members  Congregations

Catholic   65,000

Jehovah’s Witnesses  169  4

Latter-Day Saints  less than 50  2  

 

Religion

Most Albanians in Kosovo are nominally Muslim but do not attend worship services or typically display Muslim cultural traits.  Serbs are primarily Serbian Orthodox.  Catholics and Protestants account for fewer than five percent of the population.  Catholics tend to reside nearby their churches in three administrative municipalities near the Albanian border whereas Protestants are concentrated in Pristina and other cities.[2] 

 

Religious Freedom

Persecution Index:

The constitution protects religious freedom which is generally upheld by local laws and government practices.  Religion and ethnicity are highly correlated, making it difficult to determine whether societal acts of violence are ethnically or religiously motivated.  Both Christian and Muslim religious holidays are national holidays.  Religious groups are not required to register to operate.  Protestants groups are not registered with the government and desire official recognition in order to obtain needed permits to own land and obtain building permits.  Some friction between Protestants and local government has occurred concerning tax exemption and obtaining permits to build churches or bury their deceased.[3] 

 

Largest Cities

Urban: N/A

Priština, Prizren, Uroševac, Kosovska Mitrovica, Gjakova, Peja, Gjilan, Vushtrri, Podujevo, Orahovac.

Cities listed in bold have no LDS congregation

 

None of the 10 largest cities have an official congregations.  Approximately 40% of the national population lives in the 10 largest cities.  The urban population likely accounts for less than half the national population. 

 

LDS History

In 2000, Kosovo was assigned to the Europe Central Area.[4]  In 2006, President Weight from the Slovenia Ljubljana Mission traveled with his assistants to Kosovo on an exploratory visit to assess conditions and meet with members and investigators.  The first converts from Kosovo to join the Church were baptized in the United States and in other nations.  The first known baptism in Kosovo occurred in August 2006.  The same month, 26 members from Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, and Kosovo attended a youth single adult conference in Slovenia.[5]  By 2010, the Church had established the Kosovo CES Institute under the Balkans CES Coordinator.  In 2010, missionaries in the Albania Tirana Mission began teaching a woman through Skype who had been investigating the Church for several years.  Kosovo currently belongs to the Europe Area.  Kosovo is assigned to the Slovenia Ljubljana Mission.

 

Membership Growth

LDS Membership: less than 50 (2009)

In 2006, Gjakova had three native members and four foreign members and Pristina had a handful of members.  Pristina had around 12 members in 2010. 

 

Congregational Growth

Branches: 1  Groups: 2

In 2006, members met in at least two groups in Pristina and Gjakova.  In 2010, the Church organized an administrative branch for Kosovo under the Europe Area.  Groups in Pristina and Gjakova likely meet under the administrative branch.  Membership remains too small and transient to justify the creation of branches in these two cities.

 

Activity and Retention

12 attended the first baptism held in 2006.  A sacrament meeting in Gjakova in 2006 had 18 in attendance, including nine investigators.  Usually around a dozen attended Church meetings held in 2010 in Pristina.  Total active membership is likely around 20. 

 

Language Materials

Languages with LDS Scripture: Albanian, Serbian

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 are held in member’s homes. 

 

Humanitarian and Development Work

In 1999, the Church donated 200,000 pounds of blankets and clothing to Kosovo refugees temporarily living in Macedonia.[6]  90,000 pounds of humanitarian aid was donated later that year to refugees.[7]  Many Church members hand-made quilts and donated them to the Church to distribute to the needy in Kosovo during the crisis.[8]  By the end of the year, more than 100,000 quilts had been made and donated.[9]

 

 

Opportunities, Challenges and Prospects

 

Religious Freedom

There are no restrictions forbidding proselytism, foreign missionaries, or church activities for religious groups without government recognition.  Concerns over the political stability of the region and low living standards have likely delayed the placement of full-time LDS missionaries.  Difficulty for non-traditional Christian groups purchasing land and obtaining building permits may create challenges later for the LDS Church once membership size and activity merit larger meetinghouses. 

 

Cultural Issues

Following his visit to Kosovo in 2006, President Weight reported that many were receptive to the Church and that if missionaries were assigned to the country they wouldn’t have a shortage of people to teach.  Many remain receptive to Christianity and many missionary oriented churches report success gaining converts on college campuses. 

 

National Outreach

The entire population remains unreached by missionary work.  Only those with personal contacts with members can potentially learn about the Church.  The creation of the administrative branch and contact information for the Area Presidency on the Church’s meetinghouse locator site can provides contact information for interested individuals.  In 2010, the Slovenia Ljubljana Mission administered all of the former Yugoslavia.   Kosovo will likely transfer to the Albania Tirana Mission once opened for missionary work due to common language, demographics, and close proximity between the two countries. 

 

Several converts from Kosovo have joined the Church in other countries and returned to their home country.  Coordination of mission outreach in Kosovo and Kosovar communities around the world will be the most effective means of increasing national outreach, the number of Kosovar member families, and convert retention. 

 

Member Activity and Convert Retention

Current member activity rates appear very high as only a few devoted members have joined the Church in Kosovo and elsewhere. 

 

Ethnic Issues and Integration

The homogeneity of the population reduces ethnic integration challenges.

 

Language Issues

Church materials are translated in the native language of 95% of the population, very atypical for nations with a recent, unofficial Church presence. 

 

Leadership

Native Kosovar members have had little leadership training as foreign members appear to hold leadership positions.  Foreign members can provide mentoring and training to local members, but little has occurred to take advantage of these opportunities as few speak Albanian. 

 

Temple

The closest temples to Kosovo are the Bern Switzerland and Freiburg Germany Temples.  Members may attend the Rome Italy Temple once completed.  In May 2010, no temple trips appeared to occur in Kosovo. 

 

Comparative Growth

Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, and Montenegro are the last four non-city state countries in Europe without independent branches.  Among these, Kosovo and Bosnia have the most members and appear the most likely to first open for missionary work.  Most of the former Yugoslavia has experienced major challenges in convert retention and slow membership growth over the past two decades. 

 

Other Christian groups have experienced growth in Kosovo, although their presence has been limited until recently due to instability and war in the region.  Continuing to delay mission outreach in Kosovo may result in many receptive to the gospel message joining other denominations and becoming less apt to join the LDS Church over time. 

 

Future Prospects

The receptivity of the Church in Albania and current success of Christian groups in Kosovo likely indicate that the Church has potential for greater growth in Kosovo than in many other Southeastern European nations.  A small native-member community is in place to begin the foundation of local leadership to work with full-time missionaries once they are assigned.  However the high rate of emigration and current reliance on foreign members in church administration presents challenges.. 

 

A fact-finding trip to Kosovo in 2006 returned a favorable outlook for the potential of LDS missionary work in Kosovo, although no missionaries have been assigned over the past four years for reasons which are not entirely clear.  Kosovo presents no significant legal barriers to proselytism. The judgment of the World Court that Kosovo's declaration of independence did not violate international law supports Kosovo's de facto government as legitimate and not merely as a rogue province of Serbia, although recognition by holdout nations in the near future is unlikely. This ruling should allay any concerns that sending missionaries to Kosovo could present difficulties for the Church with Serbian authorities.  The most likely reason why missionaries have not been assigned is that the Slovenia Ljubljana Mission which administers Kosovo has no Albanian-speaking missionaries.  A transfer of jurisdiction for Kosovo to the Albania Tirana Mission would greatly facilitate outreach.  Current indicators suggest good potential for missionary work in Kosovo, although the experience in other nations suggests that too long a delay before missionaries are sent may result in declining receptivity due to increasing materialism and the shepherding of previously receptive individuals into other denominations.

 


[1]  Zanga, Louis.  “Albania Population Growth,” Radio Free Europe, retrieved 20 May 2010.  http://files.osa.ceu.hu/holdings/300/8/3/text/3-13-10.shtml

[2]  “Kosovo,” International Religious Freedom Report 2009, 26 October 2009.  http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2009/127318.htm

[3] “Kosovo,” International Religious Freedom Report 2009, 26 October 2009.  http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2009/127318.htm

[4]  Lloyd, Scott.  “European continent realigned into three new areas,” LDS Church News, 16 September 2000.  http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/38475/European-continent---realigned-into-three-new-areas.html

[5]  “Conferences in Europe,” LDS Church News, 19 August 2006.  http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/49347/Conferences-in-Europe.html

[6]  “Church shipping aid to Kosovo refugees,” LDS Church News, 10 April 1999.  http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/33286/Church-shipping-aid-to-Kosovo-refugees.html

[7]  Avant, Gerry.  “Humanitarian service,” LDS Church News, 17 July 1999.  http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/36053/Humanitarian-service.html

[8]  “Frequently asked questions about donating quilts to Kosovo,” LDS Church News, 7 August 1999.  http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/36186/Frequently-asked-questions-about-donating-quilts-to-Kosovo.html

[9]  Weaver, Sarah Jane.  “Cover Story: Quilts bundle up the war-torn, the hurt in Kosovo,” LDS Church News, 27 November 1999.  http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/36836/Cover-Story-Quilts-bundle-up-the-war-torn-the-hurt-in-Kosovo.html