Listen to this BosNewsLife report via Vatican Radio:
By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife
TIRANA, ALBANIA (BosNewsLife)– Victims of Albania’s former Communist regime will finally be able to see who spied on them, after Parliament passed a law opening up communist-era secret police files. The decision came more than two decades after protests ended nearly half a century of dictatorship in what Pope Francis called “a land of martyrs” when devoted Christians and political opponents were being persecuted.
Legislators approved the law with an 84-22 majority. The law also bans former members of what was known as Sigurimi from the civil service and public office in the future. But those currently holding such positions will not be sacked.
Communist leader Enver Hoxha seized power in 1944 and isolated Albania as a one-party state until mass protests in the early 1990s.
The elections in 1992 eventually ended 47 years of harsh communist rule, but initially political instability remained with a quick turnover of presidents.
And it took more than two decades two finally start healing the wounds of history by showing the documents that have long been hidden to the once persecuted public.
Though police destroyed many files, others are expected to disclose some dark secrets. Yet former regime collaborators will also have access to the surviving documents.
Under Enver Hoxa, Albania became one of the most isolated countries in the world. The regime executed at least some 7,000 political opponents and others the leadership didn’t like.
Some 100,000 Albanians were brought to forced labor or other detention camps.
Among those being targeted were many devoted church leaders and other Christians, as religion was banned in what the regime viewed as the “world’s first atheistic state”.
‘LAND OF MARTYRS’
Currently, Albania has a Muslim majority – a legacy of its centuries of Ottoman rule.
Yet nearly twenty per cent of Albania’s roughly 3 million people identifying themselves as Christians, divided mainly between the Orthodox and smaller Catholic denominations as well as some Protestant and evangelical congregations.
Last year Pope Francis visited Albania to stress religious harmony, just shortly after the former Communist nation became an official candidate for membership of the European Union.
“Recalling the decades of atrocious suffering and harsh persecutions against Catholics, Orthodox and Muslims, we can say that Albania was a land of martyrs: many bishops, priests, men and women religious, and laity paid for their fidelity with their lives,” he said during his September 21 visit.
He made clear there was now hope that the Gospel will spread. “Demonstrations of great courage and constancy in the profession of the faith are not lacking. How many Christians did not succumb when threatened, but persevered without wavering on the path they had undertaken,!” Pope Francis added.
(This is a BosNewsLife News analyse)